The morning started with talks from Dr Sue Pawlby and Professor Louise Howard, both from King’s College London. Dr Sue Pawlby provided an interesting introduction on the transgenerational effects of antenatal depression, childhood maltreatment, and subsequent adult depression. She cited the importance of early intervention in pregnancy to overcome the intergenerational continuity of maltreatment and subsequent mental health. This was followed up by a talk from Professor Louise Howard which outlined the ways in which we can best support women with decision-making during the perinatal period, particularly regarding key decisions and choices surrounding continuing/starting medication/therapy during or immediately after pregnancy. Both talks were incredibly insightful and thought-provoking, and I felt different elements of the information they had outlined could inform the practice of most people in the room.
Following this came two attachment-themed talks, one from Professor Jane Barlow looking at antenatal attachment, where she talked about pregnant women’s representations of themselves and their unborn babies, and how these representations can influence parent-infant interaction in the postnatal period, and another from Professor Pasco Fearon, which examined postnatal attachment and the influence of attachment security on later child development outcomes. Professor Fearon concluded that early attachment and parental sensitivity are important early domains involved in the development of externalising behavioural problems and emotion regulation.
Mr Raja Gangopadhyay, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, then considered the role of obstetricians and midwives in perinatal mental health, a talk which branched into a really interesting discussion between the healthcare professionals in attendance. Helen Hunter, from Best Beginnings, then talked about the ongoing success of the free Baby Buddy app, which aims to guide families through pregnancy and the first six months of their baby’s lives.
The day ended with Dr Alain Gregoire, a Consultant in Perinatal Psychiatry, talking about the need for improvements in perinatal mental health care. The talk was incredibly emotive with Alain outlining the need to recognise that whilst lots of women are needing support during and after pregnancy, it would seem few are accessing services. By the end of his talk, I sensed a shared-responsibility amongst the professionals gathered in the room to work together to ensure that all women are able to access the care and support essential during the perinatal period.