PEI

More maternal mental health screening, miscarriage leave needed, say P.E.I. MLAs

Issues around women's mental health were on the agenda Wednesday in the P.E.I. Legislature, including bereavement leave for women who have miscarriages and more screening for pre- and post-partum depression or anxiety.

'A miscarriage at any point will be hard on all those involved any time'

Maternal mental health, miscarriage leave was discussed by Island legislators Wednesday. (Shutterstock)

Issues around women's mental health were on the agenda Wednesday in the P.E.I. Legislature.

Liberal Heath MacDonald, MLA for Cornwall-Meadowbank, is calling on the government to provide bereavement leave for women who have miscarriages.

MacDonald says he will be bringing forward a private member's bill on the issue.

"Miscarriage can be very difficult, as we all know, and I've heard right here in this house. In some jurisdictions leave is provided, but only with certain time frames relative to due dates," MacDonald said. 

"In my view, a miscarriage at any point will be hard on all those involved any time. Would you agree that leave is appropriate after a miscarriage at any time during pregnancy?"

New Zealand example

Heath MacDonald said he hopes all members would support the bill when he brings it forward, including the minister. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly)

Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay said his department has been doing research on what is offered elsewhere, both in Canada and around the world. 

"The first time this was brought to my attention was back in March, when New Zealand came out with a maternity leave for miscarriage, and it was the first time that's ever been on my map," MacKay said. 

"So I have gone back to the department to check into it further to see what it would look like as a province and what the rest of the country and other countries are doing as well.

Economic Growth Minister Matthew MacKay said his department has been doing research on what is offered elsewhere, both in Canada and around the world. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly)

"I admired what New Zealand done and I certainly think we'd be most apt to willingly check into it, for sure."

MacDonald said he hopes all members would support the bill when he brings it forward, including the minister.

Maternal mental health

Meanwhile, Green MLA Trish Altass, representative for Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke, is calling on the government to do more to support the mental health of new and expectant mothers on P.E.I.

Altass asked the health minister what is being done to identify pre- and post-partum depression or anxiety in Island women.

She referred to a maternal health survey done recently by an Island psychologist.

"In a recent survey of mothers on P.E.I. led by Dr. Susan Hartley, only half reported they had been formally screened for depression or anxiety," Altass said.

"Almost a quarter of respondents said they weren't even asked about their mental health before or after birth."

Trish Altass asked the health minister what is being done to identify pre- and post-partum depression or anxiety in Island women. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly)

Altass asked the health minister what pre- and post-partum mental health screening is currently being offered on P.E.I.

"Mental health screening of new and expectant mothers allows for early detection and can save lives," Altass said.

"When will formal pre- and post-natal mental health screening be integrated fully into maternal health care here on Prince Edward Island?"

Health Minister Ernie Hudson said the women's wellness centre in Summerside provides assistance in a variety of areas, including mental health and counselling for women.

The health minister said he would check with his department to find out what training is provided to front-line health-care workers on maternal mental health. (Shutterstock/KieferPix)

The minister said he would check with his department to find out what training is provided to front-line health-care workers on maternal mental health.

"Certainly, I do appreciate the member bringing this forward. What I want to do is go back to the department, just find out exactly what training is provided to our front-line health-care workers, to our front-line GPs, nurse practitioners," Hudson said. 

"It's an excellent suggestion that the honourable member has put forward. But I do want to go back to the department, and get additional information on the training, how much, and to what extent it is taking place."

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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