Scottish midwives call for more perinatal mental health training to offer better care for women - New survey shows midwives struggle to get training needed

on 08 November 2019 Midwifery Midwives Specialist Mental Health Midwives Perinatal Mental Health Scotland RCM Scotland Scottish Government Scottish Maternity Services

Scottish midwives are asking for more specialist training around perinatal mental health (PMH) so they can support pregnant women and new mothers better.

The call comes in a new survey of midwives on how well prepared they are to support women with PMH issues. The survey is published on 8th November by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in Scotland at its perinatal mental health conference in Hamilton.

In the survey nearly all (97%) who responded said they want additional education on responding to women’s PMH needs. Almost eight in ten (79%) want more education on how to assess women’s PMH needs.

This is a critical and pressing issue. Around 15-20% of women develop postnatal depression and anxiety and suicide is the leading cause of death in the first year after pregnancy. It is also the fifth most common cause of women’s deaths during pregnancy and immediately afterwards.

Midwives in Scotland said that meeting the needs of women with perinatal mental health problems is one of their key roles. Yet, as the survey shows midwives expressed a need for more knowledge and understanding of perinatal mental health to support women better. They said that a lack of access to further high-quality training to improve their knowledge and skills was an issue and hampered their efforts to offer even better care.

Many midwives said that there were obstacles to getting the training they want and need with lack of time and managerial support being key issues. A significant majority (88%) said they faced at least one barrier to getting additional PMH education. This is a real concern.

This lack of access is undermining midwives’ confidence to support women with PMH issues. Nearly a third (31%) of midwives said they were not at all confident with their knowledge and understanding about PMH. This lack of confidence impacts on care with just 13% of respondents saying they felt confident in providing PMH care during and after pregnancy.

In response to the survey results RCM Scotland supported by midwives in its Perinatal Mental Health Forum are putting forward recommendations to tackle the issue. These include:

  • A need to prioritise resources and funding to meet midwives’ needs in terms of their knowledge, confidence and skills regarding women’s PMH needs
  • Increase availability of PMH education before and after qualification as a midwife
  • Ensure education is easily accessible in terms of time, finance, and practical arrangements.

The RCM in Scotland will also be working to support midwives in this area. This includes developing a comprehensive list of educational resources around PMH for midwives, today’s conference and a number of other initiatives.

Commenting, Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “All maternity care providers need to put mental health on an equal footing with physical wellbeing. Not getting this right can have a direct impact on a woman’s experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenting.

“Scotland’s midwives are dedicated to offering women with perinatal mental health problems the best possible care and support. Yet we are sometimes hampered by a lack of access to training and development to be able to do that as well as we want. This worries me greatly.

“Our services are among the best in the UK, if not the world and the Scottish Government are making great efforts to improve the support and care for all women and for women with mental health problems. This includes additional money to improve services including more specialist mental health midwives. At the same time, we need to ensure that all of our midwives have the training they need so that women get the best possible care all the way through their pregnancy and beyond.

“We are making great strides, but as our survey shows, there is more to do. This conference is one way in which the RCM is seeking to support midwives across Scotland in feeling best prepared to support women’s mental wellbeing in pregnancy and after birth.  We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Government, maternity services and the Perinatal Mental health managed clinical network to ensure all staff feel well prepared and supported to provide the best care we can. ”

The full survey results can be read at

The RCM Scotland Perinatal Mental Health Conference is taking place on the 8th November 2019 at the University of The West Of Scotland, Lanarkshire Campus, Stephenson Place Hamilton International Technology Park, South Lanarkshire G72 0LH

To contact the RCM Media Office for a copy of the full survey or to attend the conference call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]


The survey was conducted from 31st January to 21st February 2019 via an online survey. Scotland with distribution of the survey via RCM and NHS networks, email, and social media, and with the support of the RCM’s Perinatal Mental health Forum. 414 Midwives from all areas of Scotland completed the survey. Each area of practice was represented, although primarily within NHS consultant led units or NHS community practice.

The RCM’s Perinatal Mental health Forum is made up of 25 midwives who work or have a particular focus in perinatal mental health and includes midwifery researchers, educator and specialist perinatal mental health midwives. For more information on the RCM Scotland Perinatal Mental Health Forum visit

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