Women's awareness of perinatal mental health conditions and the acceptability of being asked about mental health in two regions in India: a qualitative study.
Fellmeth G., Kanwar P., Sharma D., Chawla K., DasGupta N., Chhajed S., Chandrakant None., Jose EC., Thakur A., Gupta V., Bharti OK., Singh S., Desai G., Thippeswamy H., Kurinczuk JJ., Chandra P., Nair M., Verma A., Kishore MT., Alderdice F.
BACKGROUND: Mental health conditions are common during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth. Early detection allows timely support and treatment to be offered, but identifying perinatal mental health conditions may be challenging due to stigma and under-recognition of symptoms. Asking about symptoms of mental health conditions during routine antenatal and postnatal appointments can help to identify women at risk. This study explores women's awareness of perinatal mental health conditions, their views on the acceptability of being asked about mental health and any preference for specific assessment tools in two regions in India. METHODS: Focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with pregnant, post-partum and non-perinatal women in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh (northern India) and Bengaluru, Karnataka (southern India). Settings included a hospital antenatal clinic and obstetric ward, Anganwadi Centres and Primary Health Centres. FGDs were facilitated, audio-recorded and transcribed. Narratives were coded for emerging themes and analysed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: Seven FGDs including 36 participants were conducted. Emerging themes were: manifestations of and contributors to mental health conditions; challenges in talking about mental health; and the acceptability of being asked about mental health. Difficult familial relationships, prioritising the needs of others and pressure to have a male infant were cited as key stressors. Being asked about mental health was generally reported to be acceptable, though some women felt uncomfortable with questions about suicidality. No preference for any specific assessment tool was reported. CONCLUSIONS: Women face many stressors during the perinatal period including difficult familial relationships and societal pressure to bear a male infant. Being asked about mental health was generally considered to be acceptable, but questions relating to suicidality may be challenging in a community setting, requiring sensitivity by the interviewer. Future studies should assess the acceptability of mental health assessments in 'real world' antenatal and postnatal clinics and explore ways of overcoming the associated challenges in resource-constrained settings.