Ask the Expert: What mental health support should new mums be getting?
Q: I'VE just discovered I'm pregnant and having had depression in the past, I'm concerned about my mental health and how this might affect my baby. What support should I be getting?
A: New NCT (nct.org.uk) and Netmums.com research reveals that 47 per cent of new mothers get less than three minutes or no time at all to discuss their mental and physical health at a postnatal check-up.
Alana Ryan, senior policy and public affairs officer at the NSPCC (nspcc.org.uk), says: "It's natural to feel daunted as you think about some of the big changes that lie ahead. The perinatal period – during pregnancy and the first year after birth – is an important time, when parents are getting ready for the new arrival and then finding their feet, and building strong and lasting bonds with their baby.
"Experiences during this time can play a really important role in helping to shape a child's brain and can impact how their health, wellbeing, learning and behaviour develops over time.
"At the NSPCC, we know that mental health problems for parents during pregnancy and the first years of their child's life can make it difficult to form these crucial relationships, potentially affecting a child's overall development. With the right support however, the whole family can thrive during this crucial time.
"All parents having access to high-quality mental health services is vital, given that we know that up to one in five mums and one in 10 dads will experience mental health problems during the perinatal period. It's important that you speak to a health professional if you have any concerns at all about your mental health – both during pregnancy or after the birth.
"Sometimes it can be hard to know whether any feelings are just a normal reaction to having a baby, but sharing your worries will mean you can be signposted to additional support if required.
"Over the next few years, you should receive a series of visits from your local health visitor. This person is uniquely well placed to recognise early signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties and can ensure that if you need extra help, that support is provided. It's also important to reach out to your own support network of friends or family and remember you can also speak to your GP, who's there to provide advice and assistance too.
"The NSPCC is committed to ensuring mental health problems are identified during this time as quickly as possible, and all families can access high-quality support wherever they live. Through our Fight for a Fair Start campaign (nspcc.org.uk/fair-start), we're calling for comprehensive mental health support for all parents during the perinatal period, so every baby and family gets the best possible start in life. Families should be confident that as soon as an issue is identified, they'll receive the care they need."