GPs should be supported and incentivised to meet all new mothers six weeks after their babies are born to ask them about their mental health, according to a report published today by Centre for Mental Health.
The report was commissioned by the National Childbirth Trust for its Hidden Half campaign and explores the implications of extending the current six-week health check for babies to include a consultation about the wellbeing of the mother.
The report finds that resourcing GPs to offer a ten-minute appointment about the mother’s health would cost around £27 million a year. But this could help to identify more women who are experiencing mental health difficulties after the birth of their child, which carry a cost of some £8 billion annually.
Abigail Wood, National Childbirth Trust Head of Campaigns and Communications said:
Our research found that nearly half of new mothers’ mental health problems were not identified by a health professional. The six-week postnatal check is a crucial opportunity to do so and we want to see the Government commit to providing funding so GPs can give new mothers a full appointment dedicated to their mental and physical wellbeing. Too many mothers are falling through the net and this has to change.
The report concludes that an additional health check with GPs would provide an important opportunity to help women whose difficulties were missed during pregnancy. To make the most of their opportunity, GPs would also need training and advice on how to enquire about a new mother’s mental health.