The findings of the Maternal Health and Maternal Morbidity in Ireland (MAMMI), a Trinity study of the health of Irish first-time mothers, were released yesterday, revealing many hidden health problems that affect the lives of Irish mothers. It shows that problems in the areas of sexual and mental health, as well as issues such as pain and incontinence, are common among mothers. The study has also found that women are being asked less about these conditions by health care professionals.
The MAMMI study is the first to look at issues of sexual health in Irish new mothers. It has revealed that more than one in two women experienced painful sex in the first three months after having their baby and a quarter of women had not resumed having sex three months after the birth. In terms of mental health, 28% of women reported they had suffered from anxiety within 3 months of having their baby, while 17% had depression during the same period. Despite this, half the women were not asked about either condition by their GP, while a third were not asked by their public health nurse.
The study was funded by the Health Research Board and led from Trinity College’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. The findings were presented at a major conference yesterday.
Speaking about the significance of these findings, Professor Cecily Begley, principal investigator of MAMMI and the Nursing and Midwifery Chair in Trinity said the research indicates that “many serious aspects of women’s health during and after pregnancy remain almost completely hidden,” despite most of these conditions being “preventable or treatable.”
Dr Deirdre Daly, assistant professor in midwifery, said: “Regardless of what type of health problem women experience, many women do not talk about it or disclose it to a health professional, often because they haven’t heard about it happening to anyone else.”
Dr Daly said that among the key changes needed in order to improve women’s health is healthcare professionals finding the time to listen to women in their care. She also stressed the significance of getting relevant information out to women so that they can become informed, and inform each other in order to “break down the walls of secrecy and silence.”