Support for Mental Health in Pregnancy and After Birth is Patchy

According to the research from the Centre for Mental Health and the Royal College of General Practitioners women suffering with depression and/or anxiety are not being supported during this time and their needs are not being recognised.

‘Falling through the gaps’, a report by Lorraine Khan, uses data to find out why so few women get the help they need in a timely manner from their GPs. The report goes on to express what would help to ensure more get access to the support they need, when they need it.

The reports found that women were fearful of disclosing their distress to their GPs or other professionals. Many doctors seem to not know how to respond effectively or they lack the confidence in their ability to achieve timely access to psychological services.

Essentially the report concluded that GPs need more information about perinatal depression and anxiety and how to respond. The help that’s needed is urgent and does need to be received without delays.

The report painted a picture of ‘mental health difficulties not being picked up on because of fear, lack of knowledge, lack of trust in the system and lack of confidence.’ It has been noted that sometimes mental health is only discussed at crisis point and even at this point some women remain unheard.

Dr Judy Shakespeare, Clinical Lead for Perinatal Mental Health said ‘mental illness during pregnancy or the first few months after giving birth can have a devastating and long last impact on entire families.’ Stigmatisation is still playing a part, women are fearful of the stigma attached to mental health illnesses should they decide to seek help.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has responded with; ‘addressing the issue and perinatal mental health is one of our key clinical priorities for the next three years’.

GPs do play a vital role in identifying, supporting and treating mums suffering with mental health problems so it is key that they are informed and confident in the support that is available to their vulnerable patients.

The services are currently described as ‘patchy’ but perhaps with more counsellors and more available treatment the gaps in this patchy treatment system can be resolved.