It is thought that as many as one in five new mothers are suffering from postnatal depression (PND) but that the regular checks for new mums are too rushed to pick up on the signs.
A survey conducted by parenting group, NCT and online forum, Netmums, revealed that nearly 30% of new mothers said that their GP had not asked them about their mental health at all.
Although guidelines recommend that the six-week check should look for the signs of PND and that women’s physical, emotional and social well-being should be reviewed, the Royal College of GPs admits that this may not always happen. It is thought that the main reason for this comes down to the fact that there is a long checklist to get through in the short 10 minute slot that patients are allocated.
Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard from the College, commented:
“GPs throughout the UK are under increasing pressure. We’re in the midst of a funding crisis and when people are working in a system that’s under pressure, clearly doctors are going to feel pressurised.”
Dr Liz McDonald, Chairwoman of the Perinatal Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists is now calling for parity between mental and physical health when doctors examine new mothers. She believes that around 15% of mothers are affected by postnatal depression at some stage but it can be hard to pick up on when there are so many issues new mothers face and these frequently take up the entire appointment time.
The survey also revealed that 45% of respondents felt that the six-week check-ups are not thorough enough and 26% felt their appointment had been rushed.