Pre and Post-Partum Mental Health Checks Should Be Made Mandatory

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BABIES shouldn’t have to go into incubators. Newborns should never have needles stuck into their backs. First time fathers shouldn’t shed tears, and mothers ought to be able to be pacified through it all. These are all things that happen every day. Parents stare through glass windows at babies born too soon in intensive care units fighting for their lives. After waiting nine months in the hopes of finally meeting that perfect little human, all they can do is wait.

For most of us, loving babies is instinctual. Whether it is our own, or the baby who can’t stop smiling and staring at us on the bus, at the mall, or even in the supermarket, we can’t help but be completely taken with them. So innocent and full of life, love and newness… babies have a way of getting us to take our guard down. In their own way, they bring hope to the hopeless, and cause stagnant time to move forward. Babies are loved by most of us.

Which would then explain the horror experienced by the populace at news of the discovery of a human fetus in Soufriere. The fetus was reportedly found in the community of Palmiste Monday morning.

With a discovery that gruesome, it’s easy to assume the worst. Particularly as discoveries of that nature have become somewhat common. Locally and internationally, there have been discoveries of human fetus’ on airplanes, in and out of schools, in parks and other outdoor areas. Often, these have been traced back to teens, or women who are mentally disturbed. Sometimes the story tracks back to a miscarriage, and a woman too devastated, traumatized or even embarrassed to know how to deal with the situation.

The recent news brings into focus once again women’s rights concerning whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. Considering International Women’s Day is around the corner, the discussion is timely. The abortion rights movement has gone international, with rallies and protests happening worldwide to legalize abortion. Here in Saint Lucia, though most doctors do not perform the procedure, there are some clinics which privately cater to clients wishing to terminate a pregnancy. Legally, the procedure can only be undertaken in cases of rape, incest or if needed to protect the health of the mother.

The island’s Minister of Health Mary Isaac has in the past shared her view that women should have a right to choose if they want an abortion. In her words, ‘I believe abortion is a decision between the patient (the mother), her physician and her conscious with her God.’

The recent news also brings into question whether there are enough support systems for expectant mothers locally. Are there avenues to ensure they are nourished well in order to positively impact their health and that of their unborn baby? Do we promote the need for healthy lifestyles for women who will soon be mothers, or is that entirely left to their immediate family and friends? Are our healthcare booking and data systems up to par, so that even underprivileged women can receive optimal service at every visit? Are we compassionate as a society to young moms to be, or do we cast more judgement than care?

Nine months can feel like nine years to a pregnant woman. There are so many things that could be going through her mind, particularly if it is her first child. Her state of mind is almost completely dependent on her support system. For most, pregnancy is equally joyous and terrifying.

As much as the argument states a woman has a right to decide whether or not to see a pregnancy to term, women should also be educated about the options available if they decide to see a pregnancy through, including adoption.

As our healthcare system continues to develop locally, mental health checks should be made a priority for all pregnant women, pre and post-partum. The Planned Parenthood Association of Saint Lucia offers pre and post-partum pregnancy counseling and encourages women who need support to take advantage of the free service.

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