The report states that during pregnancy and in the year after birth, women can be affected by a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and postnatal psychotic disorders.
The report describes how a lack of focus on mother’s mental health has led to a ‘postcode lottery’ for families and that in some areas of the country, women are not getting the right help and support they need.
The onset and escalation of perinatal mental illnesses can often be prevented through early identification and expert management of a woman’s condition, and prompt and inform choices about treatment, states the report.
It adds that a range of services must be in place in every local area to ensure that women who are at risk of, or suffering from, perinatal mental illnesses, are given appropriate support at the earliest opportunity.
Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says:
“We welcome this report highlighting the importance of supporting mums both before birth and the weeks and months following birth.
“Over the past decade, the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the UK have highlighted the issue of maternal mental health and showed that suicide in pregnancy and the first postnatal year remains one of the causes of maternal death. The latest enquiry (2006-2008) called for all women to be asked about a previous history of psychiatric disorder as well as their current mental health at their antenatal booking.
“We know that psychiatric disorders during pregnancy and following delivery are common – 10% of new mothers are likely to develop a depressive illness.
“It is therefore vital that women receive the right support and at the right time. Every obstetric unit should have in place a clearly defined care pathway for referring women to local specialised perinatal mental health services. More importantly, we need to identify women who are at-risk of mental illness and ante- or postnatal depression so that we can support them.
“The RCOG believes that the concept of care should be more inclusive and extend over a woman’s life-course. We know that women with pre-existing mental health disorders are at a greater risk and therefore, an assessment of risk should begin pre-pregnancy to ensure women receive the best possible care.”
For more information please see the RCOG’s Good Practice guidance: Management of Women with Mental Health Issues during Pregnancy and the Postnatal Period –
To read the report, click here.