PATH project results in building blocks for supporting mental health in perinatal care

A pregnancy or baby brings great responsibility for those directly involved.

The European PATH project helps expectant and new parents to cope with a whole host of tools and at the same time provides perinatal care professionals with tools to support parents. A special edition of the Dutch VROEG magazine brings together the different elements of the project.

Dr. Bosky Nair, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist & Co-clinical Lead Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust Clinical Lead for PATH-UK said: "Pregnant women have significant variations in immune, neurological and hormonal responses alongside a physiologically high cortisol level. The sudden drop in hormones following childbirth could potentially make new mothers more susceptible to psychological distress, particularly when there are adverse social and environmental factors." 

This unique project, which runs until March 2023, involves 13 partners from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. For this reason, the VROEG special was released not only in Dutch, but also in English and French.

PATH team photo

Sophie McGannan, PATH International Project Manager, The Health and Europe Centre said: "Regardless of where you're living in Europe and the kind of perinatal care that is currently being provided in that country, 10-20% of women suffer from mental illness following birth and up to a year after, of which around 90% of these women do not receive the support they need. This is why a collaborative, cross-border project that takes learning, best practice and innovative ideas from a number of different organisations across four countries was put in place. PATH is devoted to raising awareness of and destigmatising perinatal mental health illness, as well as promoting prepared parenting."

One of the key aspects of the project was the development of an online digital platform. This provides a wealth of information for both families and professional practice and services in the field of mental health around birth. Furthermore, a lot of energy was put into preparing for parenthood. For instance, concrete parenting courses for expectant parents have been developed but also a whole number of apps.

Dr. Christine Franckx, child psychiatrist and PATH project lead for Gio Vzw said: "Being able to recognise mental health questions, tolerate emotional crises and better keep patients experiencing mental distress in mind are just some of the focus points in an in-depth four year training course for healthcare professionals in Flanders."

PATH also launched multimedia campaigns in the four countries to raise awareness of and destigmatise conditions such as postnatal depression and anxiety. Finally, a series of informative apps and virtual reality tools have been developed on preconception, pregnancy, birth and parenthood, among others. There is also support for when a pregnancy does not end well. This list is just a sampling of all project activities.

The special edition of VROEG: 44 pages long, gives a complete overview. The special was handed out during the PATH final conference on 16 November 2022 at the Kinepolis Antwerp. And will then be available for free download in three languages for all interested parties from the VROEG website.