A ‘concerted effort’ must be made to get new mothers talking about their mental health to their doctors or risk the problems not being addressed, according to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
In a report from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), data showed that nearly half (42%) of new mothers’ mental health problems did not get picked up by a doctor or other health professional.
RCM director Mary Ross-Davie said: ‘These are worrying results that highlight the lack of support for mothers after the birth. It is clear that a concerted effort is needed to improve care for women and this means investment in midwives and other health professionals.’
The RCM conducted its own research in 2014 which identified real gaps in care for women suffering with mental health issues in pregnancy and after the birth but there has been little progress made since then, according to Ross-Davie.
In the NCT’s research, it was found that 22% of women were not asked about their emotional wellbeing at all at their six-week check from a GP, and 20% of those with a mental health problem did not feel able to disclose it.
Sarah McMullan, head of knowledge at NCT, said: ‘GPs are under incredible pressure so it's no wonder that this crucial opportunity to uncover any mental health problems is being missed.’
Recommendations from the report focused on increasing funding and support for GPs, but the RCM was keen to stress the important role midwives have to play.
‘Ensuring that women see the same midwife or small group of midwives will also help to identify and spot problems developing during pregnancy, and after the birth,’ said Ms Ross-Davie.
‘It is critical to stress the importance of this because suicide remains a leading cause of maternal death, with the first six weeks after the birth a time of particular risk. Mental health problems can have a devastating impact on mothers, their babies and families.’