‘Vital that equal importance given to both mental and physical state of women during pregnancy say midwives’

By RCM on 08 February 2017 Maternal Mental health Women Pregnancy Perinatal Mental Health Midwives NICE - The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

‘GPs should ask women who have given birth about their eating and sleeping habits in case they are suffering from depression’ that’s according to new indicators proposed by NICE.

Their guidance also reiterates that women should be asked about their mental state at their first midwife appointment when they are around eight to 10 weeks pregnant.

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy, with around twelve percent of women experiencing depression and thirteen percent experiencing anxiety at some point.

The new guidance states that women should be asked about symptoms such as poor sleeping and eating at their six-week check.

During the first appointment with a midwife they should also be asked questions about mental health, such as how often in the past month have they been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless.

Women should also be asked if they've lost interest in doing things they usually enjoy, if they are bothered by feeling nervous, anxious or worried and if they are able to sleep.

Commenting Janet Fyle Professional Policy Advisor at The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) says; “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 per-cent of women are affected by mental health problems at some point in pregnancy or the postnatal period – within the first year after birth.”

“Midwives play a central role in promoting the emotional well-being of women and their babies and in ensuring that all women with mental health concerns get appropriate and timely care. We know that women with existing mental health problems can see their symptoms escalate during pregnancy.

This is why it’s vital that GPs and midwives work closely together so warning signs and symptoms are not missed. In addition maternity services as a whole need to ensure they are bridging the gap between hospital and community based care. Unfortunately at the moment the provision of these services is currently patchy at best and this is simply not good enough.”

In November 2015 the RCM developed and published a standards framework for specialist maternal mental health midwives which was supported by the Department of Health and aimed to strengthen midwifery and maternity care for women whose pregnancy and post natal experience maybe complicated by mental health problems.

We also continue to work closely with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance to further push our efforts to improve support and care for all women across UK who may be suffering and struggling with mental health problems.

Perinatal mental illness exerts a significant toll on families and the impact on the women themselves, their baby, and the wider society cannot be underestimated. We know that suicide is a leading cause of death in new mothers in the UK. The system is failing many women and their families and that is simply not acceptable.”


Download: Caring for Women with Mental Health Problems


NICE seeks to support new mothers with mental health problems

NICE is calling on general practice staff to assess the mental health of all women who have recently given birth, as fears some may be left unsupported: https://www.nice.org.uk/news/article/nice-seeks-to-support-new-mothers-with-mental-health-problems 


To contact the RCM Press Office call 020 7312 3456 or email [email protected].


Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.