Need for more investment in mental health services for pregnant women highlighted

Pregnancy and parenting advice website BabyCentre found 30% of surveyed pregnant women displayed five or more signs of antenatal depression.

Urgent investment in mental health services for maternity units is being called for after a new study revealed as many as 250,000 pregnant women a year in the UK could experience depression.

Pregnancy and parenting advice website BabyCentre found that 30% of the pregnant women it surveyed displayed five or more clear indicators of antenatal depression. The biggest reasons for staying silent were guilt, embarrassment and fear of being judged by others or labelled mentally ill.

Responding to the survey, Royal College of Midwives (RCM) professional policy adviser Janet Fyle said: 'The survey highlights the urgent need for investment in perinatal mental health services.'

Ms Fyle is also alarmed at figures showing 43% of pregnant women surveyed do not consult a healthcare professional to discuss feelings and one quarter do not talk to anyone at all about their feelings.

She added: ‘These findings are consistent with what women and their families have said previously and continue to say.

‘From our own research we know that midwives are often unable to provide the type of support and attention that women experiencing mental health issues require because of a lack of services locally.

‘However, I would urge women who are having these feelings to discuss them with their midwife.'

The study also showed that when healthcare professionals were consulted, they were twice as likely to prescribe medication than refer patients to services like cognitive behavioural therapy.

‘We also need to recognise that not all women are depressed in pregnancy, not all women need medication. There is also a need to be careful about labelling them as "depressed". This is the area that frightens women into not seeking help,’ Ms Fyle added.

The RCM conducted its own study on this subject last year and made several recommendations, including having a specialist perinatal mental health midwife in each unit.

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