Inequalities in the identification and management of common mental disorders in the perinatal period: An equity focused re-analysis of a systematic review

Publication authors

Stephanie L. Prady ,Charlotte Endacott, Josie Dickerson, Tracey J. Bywater, Sarah L. Blower



Maternal mental health problems in the perinatal period can cause significant distress and loss of functioning, and can have lasting impact on children. People living in disadvantage are at risk of health inequalities, including for perinatal mental health. A review of current guidance found that overall implementation of the UK detection and management strategy was satisfactory, but equity was not considered in the review. Greater understanding of implementation equity is needed. We aimed to reanalyse an existing systematic review on the implementation of current guidance for the identification and management of perinatal mental health problems for equity.


Studies reporting the presence or absence of variation by a social, economic or demographic group were quality appraised and the presence and direction of disparity tabled. We calculated standardised absolute prevalence estimates for overall detection and management, and absolute and relative estimates by determinants grouping. A thematic analysis of the studies that examined potential reasons for disparity was undertaken.


Six studies, with no major quality concerns, provided consistent evidence of reduced identification and management for ethnic minority women, both those who do, and do not, speak English. There was less consistent evidence of inequality for other axes of social disparity and for characteristics such as age, parity and partnership status. Explanations centred on difficulties that translation and interpretation added to communication, and hesitancy related to uncertainty from healthcare providers over cultural understanding of mental health problems.


The identification and management of perinatal mental health problems is likely to be inequitable for ethnic minority women. Further systems-based research should focus on clarifying whether other groups of women are at risk for inequalities, understand how mismatches in perception are generated, and design effective strategies for remediation. Inequalities should be considered when reviewing evidence that underpins service planning and policy decision-making.