Bringing maternal mental illness out of hiding

One of the overarching themes of health policy in recent years has been the need to ensure that mental health is treated on a par with physical health.

With this in mind, an important cause I continue to support is the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT) Hidden Half campaign.

The GP six week post-natal check is a conventional health check at a critical time for the wellbeing of both mother and child. While providing a chance to spot mental health problems, the reality is that this opportunity is often missed.

The NCT have found that nearly half of new mothers’ mental health problems are not picked up by a health professional, with around a fifth of mothers who had a six week check not being asked about their emotional wellbeing.

This is a personal issue for me as I have good memories of attending NCT Crawley classes before my daughter was born, and I want to help ensure that new parents also receive this kind of care and attention.

Earlier this year the then-Public Health & Primary Care Minister confirmed that NHS England are undertaking work to establish a clear picture of current practice in this area, with the potential for a six week post-natal maternal health check for all mothers being subject to this work.

At present, the experience of some mothers is that while baby checks are routinely carried out, the maternal check is either not done at all or is undertaken in a rush at the baby check appointment, leading to mothers not feeling comfortable to disclose any mental health problems.

By ensuring GPs are supported to give every mother a full appointment for a maternal check, we can make sure that any problems are picked up on and that support is provided.

It is right that we bring maternal mental illness out of hiding.

Henry Smith MP