NewsGPs to offer more mental health support to postpartum mothers in England

GPs to offer more mental health support to postpartum mothers in England

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Doctors will use six- to eight-week health check to screen for postnatal depression or PTSD as a result of labor

Mothers in England will be asked in detail if pregnancy or childbirth has affected their mental health, under new NHS guidance for GPs.

The move is part of a drive by NHS England to improve support for women suffering from postnatal depression or other mental health problems related to their pregnancy or childbirth.

Under the new guidance, GPs will ask women more questions than before about how they are feeling when they attend their postnatal health check six to eight weeks after giving birth.

GPs will be looking for any signs that the woman may have a condition such as postnatal PTSD as a result of experiencing a traumatic birth, or psychosis brought on by having a child.

Anyone the GP feels needs help with their mental wellbeing is referred to specialist maternal mental health services, which have been expanded in recent years.

One in four of the 600,000 women who give birth each year in England will develop a mental health problem as a result of their pregnancy or experience of childbirth.

NHS England has developed the new guidance – the first of its kind – with the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) in an attempt to reduce suffering, tackle the £8.1 billion annual cost of maternal mental illness and reduce the risk of a new mother taking her own life.

“Mothers should be supported after giving birth. This includes being able to access the mental and physical health support they need to make a healthy recovery, while giving newborns the best start in life,” said Health Secretary Victoria Atkins.

The health check is also an opportunity for mothers to ask about physical health problems.

“This new advice for GPs on the long-term health implications of conditions that may first appear during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, hypertension and depression, will mean that women are offered guidance on conditions that may develop or become more serious later in life,” said Dame Lesley Regan, the Government’s Women’s Health Ambassador.

Prof Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the RCGP, said the guidance “recognizes the importance and complexity of the six- to eight-week postnatal consultation and highlights the opportunity to identify and offer evidence-based treatment for issues such as postnatal mental health problems and pelvic health complications of pregnancy and childbirth”.

But GPs need more time to help women who have recently given birth, because many postnatal conditions require longer appointments than the standard 10 minutes and then require follow-up consultations, she added.

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