Pregnant women and new mothers should be given more support and guidance surrounding their mental health, according to a new report by NICE.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is calling on GPs to assess the mental health of all pregnant and postnatal women, as some symptoms of mental illness – changes to appetite or sleeping patterns – can be masked by what is considered “normal” for individuals.
“GPs play a vital role in helping vulnerable people to get the correct diagnosis and the support they need,” said Dr Andrew Black, GP at Mortimer medical practice and deputy chair of the NICE indicator advisory committee.
Dr Black added: “These indicators, put forward by NICE, could help GPs to identify and support their patients who are most at risk.
“This can only be a good thing.”
NICE stated one in eight women experience anxiety or depression while pregnant, and up to one in five do so during the first year after childbirth.
The institute seeks to support GPs and clinical commissioning group (CCGs) by identifying areas of care to focus on to improve local and national health.
Their guidance reiterates that women should be asked about their mental state at their first midwife appointment, such as how often in the past month they have been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless.
Commenting on the recommendations, Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said: “The RCM believes that midwives, GPs and other healthcare professionals should always place equal importance on a women’s mental and physical health, not only after birth, but throughout the entire pregnancy.
“We know that suicide is a leading cause of death in new mothers in the UK and up to 20% of women are affected by mental health problems at some point in pregnancy or the postnatal period – within the first year after birth.”
Fyle said midwives play a central role in promoting the emotional wellbeing of women and their…