Begin Before Birth: Perinatal Mental Health Webinar

I am delighted to be introducing this latest conference which I think will be of huge interest to many new mums, dads and those who care for them. We ask the question “What can happen to any person before birth?” It turns out that what a baby experiences whilst still in the womb can be of great importance to health and wellbeing much later in life. This is also true of a microscopic embryo just three days after conception – while it is still invisible to the naked eye. These influences can affect growth, development and health before the mother can even know she is pregnant. The consequence may have powerful effects on a person’s health years afterwards, much later in adult life.

Our research shows that some quite common medical conditions may only present as a problem for the first time in middle age but have their genesis in the womb. These diseases may result from changes in the unborn baby’s environment. They include heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and weak bones. It seems almost unbelievable that a tiny person while yet unborn may be so sensitive. It goes further that this. Common conditions like childhood asthma and obesity – and just possibly in some cases, diabetes – may also be more likely with environmental changes. One reason why doctors advise pregnant women not to smoke and also limit the amount of alcohol they drink.

All this is not just true of physical health, but mental well-being also. Mental health problems in pregnancy and after birth affect at least one out of every five women. This last year has been extraordinary and there is no doubt that the pandemic has taken its toll on everybody. But there is no doubt that the apprehension and loneliness caused by the virus has been unprecedented. Moreover the lockdowns have greatly increased the anxiety. This webinar also gives a powerful and optimistic message. The ill effects on later life following changes in the environment in the womb are frequently reversible. But need to understand that environment better, we must recognise what is happening and understand the mechanisms.

This meeting on Zoom seeks to foster friendly, open discussion around the topic. We are fortunate to have gathered a group of world experts for this symposium and there will be plenty of time to put your questions to leading experts in the field. This discussion should be valuable for new and expectant. parents, or those trying to conceive or just thinking about a pregnancy. The webinar is chaired by Professor Vivette Glover at Imperial College London, and is hosted by the charity Genesis Research Trust which supports research into all aspects of women’s health. This meeting echoes the theme of this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week: “Including Infants”.

Everyone is welcome to join us on the afternoon of June 15th. For more information, or to register, please click here.