Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about postnatal mental health and the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT’s) #HiddenHalf campaign. I support the NCT’s campaign and agree that all expectant mothers should be confident that the NHS can deliver the best possible care to them and their babies at what is one of the most important times in their life.
Pregnancy, birth and becoming a parent can be a special and rewarding time for many. However, for others, the stress and upheaval of pregnancy and becoming a parent can trigger existing mental health problems or spark new ones.
One in five women will experience mental ill health during their pregnancy and after birth, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common. One way to prevent women from feeling isolated is by identifying those mental health issues and ensuring the proper support is in place. Sadly, far too often, that does not happen.
Research by the NCT has found that nearly half of all mental health problems that new mothers experience are not picked up by health professionals, and GP practices can choose to opt-out of providing a six-week postnatal check. The NCT also found that 47% of new mothers get less than three minutes to discuss their mental health with a healthcare professional.
The Government said it held discussions with the GP profession about the potential for including a six-week postnatal maternal health check in the negotiating remit for the 2019-20 GP contract. However, it was concluded that these proposals should be developed outside of the contract process.
I will urge the Government at every opportunity to make funding available for a six-week health check. I recently submitted a Written Parliamentary Question on the issue of neonatal units and mental health, but I was told that the information was not identifiable. I support introducing an additional mandated health visit for new mothers at three to four months. This would be backed by an additional £25 million, paid for as part of a new National Child Health Fund.