Post-natal depression can be avoided if women simply receive the correct kind of support after they give birth, a report by academics has said.
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Health visitors, whose numbers in England have been drastically cut over the years, should be trained to psychologically assess new mothers, according to the study.
Joint research carried out by staff at the universities of Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, could not be developed because of the severe shortages of ordinary NHS health visitors, never mind specially trained ones.
Terry Brugha, the lead author of the study and who is based at Leicester’s health sciences department, said: “Up until now, it was thought that depression could only be treated when it is picked up by a GP or health visitor. But this study shows that women are less likely to become depressed in the year after childbirth if they are attended by an NHS health visitor who has undergone additional training in specific mental health assessment and in psychological approaches based on either cognitive behavioural or listening techniques.
“Women receiving usual care were significantly more likely to develop depression six months after childbirth.
“However when the research team set out to repeat and develop further this research they were unable to make sufficient progress because in most parts of England there has been a substantial reduction in the number of health visitors funded by the NHS.”
Depression is thought to affect about one in 10 women following childbirth, depending on the definition and method used to assess depression.