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More emphasis needed on mental health of mothers, say midwives

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A quarter of new mothers are not asked by midwives about how they are coping after the birth of their babies, a poll suggests.

A quarter of new mothers are not asked by midwives about how they are coping after the birth of their babies, a poll suggests.

Despite the fact that nearly three in five women admit that they feel down or depressed after giving birth, 24.9% of 500 women polled by the Royal College of Midwives and Netmums said that they were not asked how they were coping during post-natal visits from their maternity team.

Midwives want more done on depression

Meanwhile, just 40% of 2,100 midwives questioned by the RCM said they have enough time to support and inform women about emotional well-being.

The college has made a series of recommendations to help improve the care for women with mental health issues.

There should be a specialist mental health midwife in every organisation and more mother and baby units for mothers with mental health difficulties, it said.

There should also be a review of midwife training to ensure that those who are starting out in the profession feel as though they can adequately deal with mental health issues.

Of 950 student midwives questioned, a quarter said they had not been taught enough theoretical knowledge about post-natal mental illness and 29% said they would not feel confident to recognise mental health problems in post-natal women.

The RCM is also calling for 4,800 more midwives for England.

“The quality of post-natal care that women receive appears to be a lottery,” said RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick.

“We have serious, long-standing concerns about the levels of care for women with mental health problems. It is clear this is a high priority for maternity staff and it is clear they want to deliver a high quality service. However, they are often prevented by doing this either by the system itself or a simple lack of resources.

“The RCM is worried that post-natal care is suffering and women are getting a poorer service because of the continuing shortage of midwives in England.

“Midwives are often moved from this crucial area to cover shortages in other areas, particularly on labour wards. This means that midwives often do not have enough time when they visit women to spot the signs and support women with problems such as post-natal depression.

“We are calling on the NHS organisations responsible for maternity services to respond to our recommendations and to implement them.

Cathy Warwick

“One thing is certain, our members cannot continue to paper over the cracks in an under-funded and under-resourced post-natal environment without there being detrimental effects on the health of women and children.”

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Every woman should have a named midwife making sure they receive personalised care, which will help identify mental health problems early on.

“We are training staff in perinatal mental health so that there will be specialist staff available for every woman by 2017. We have over 1,500 more midwives and nearly 1,700 more health visitors in the NHS since 2010, as well a record 5,000 more midwives in training.”


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Readers' comments (1)

  • Yet another wonderful idea, however without more midwives in the community it does not have a chance of becoming reality. The 'reality' is that there are hardly any midwives now to cope with the number of post natal women discharged often a few hours following delivery. Most will get one rushed visit from a midwife and perhaps one more from a health care assistant, unless they have a health problem that requires a midwife to visit. Is there any wonder that so many women suffer in silence?

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