NICE recommends general practice staff do more to access pregnant and new mums’ mental health

Published9th February 2017
AuthorPosted by Tim Martin

Credit: This story was first seen on On Medica


General practice staff should do more to diagnose and support new mums with mental health problems, NICE has urged.


It is also proposing that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) should record how many pregnant women or new mums are asked about their mental health, and how many of those with a suspected mental health problem receive a full mental health assessment and appropriate and timely treatment, On Medica reports.

NICE said about one in eight women are estimated to suffer from anxiety or depression while pregnant, and as many as one in five during their first year after giving birth.


It pointed out that a recent report by NHS Improving Quality found variability in women’s experience of treatment for perinatal mental health problems, concluding that improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) services were not always found to be of benefit or suited to women with maternal mental health issues.

In its consultation on potential new indicators for the NICE indicator menu, NICE has called on general practice staff to assess the mental health of all women who have recently had a baby, in response to concerns that some new mothers are not getting the support they need.


It recommended that the routine six-week postnatal check ‘could provide an opportunity for new mothers to be asked about their mental health’.


It said changes to appetite or sleeping patterns, and other symptoms of mental health problems, can be masked by what is considered normal for pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.

NICE has also recommended that CCGs should record the proportion of pregnant women asked about their mental health at their first booking appointment; and the proportion of women referred for psychological interventions in pregnancy or the postnatal period who start treatment within six weeks of referral.


NICE said it is especially important that women receive prompt treatment for a mental health problem in pregnancy or the postnatal period because of its potential effect not just on her own physical health and care – but also on her baby, and on her ability to function and care for her family.

GP Dr Andrew Black, who is deputy chair of NICE’s indicator advisory committee, commented: "These indicators, put forward by NICE, could help GPs to identify and support their patients who are most at risk. This can only be a good thing."

The draft changes to NICE’s indicator menu for this year also include proposals for indicators on diabetes prevention, increasing the awareness of cervical screening programmes and the development of an autism register.

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