Although depression during pregnancy is as common as postnatal depression, mothers-to-be can often miss out on proper treatment due to a lack of midwife training, it has been suggested.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence lay down instructions for GPs working with pregnant women and new mothers on how to predict and detect harmful perinatal mental health.
But a study from the University of Hull shows that midwives need to be adequately trained to take on such a role because they currently rely on knowledge picked up to identify mental health problems.
The university’s Dr Julie Jomeen explains: ‘Midwives do not often receive sufficient formal training in antenatal depression and because some of the symptoms overlap with pregnancy, such as tiredness and emotional instability, it can be difficult to detect.’
The Hull area is now putting together a programme to tackle perinatal mental health, which it is hoped could form the blueprint for other UK regions.
A multidisciplinary group chaired by Dr Jomeen has proposed a systematic approach towards recognising and treating the condition through the training, advice and support of GPs, midwives and health visitors in prediction and detection techniques.
‘The uniqueness of this project is the bottom-up approach; it has been initiated by the clinical staff rather than management,’ Dr Jomeen explained.
An estimated 10% of mothers suffer from antenatal or postnatal depression, which equates to 70,000 women in the UK each year.