New mothers in England to be offered mental health checks”

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Women are invited for a GP check-up six to eight weeks after giving birth to make sure they are recovering well.

The new guidance sets out in more detail what should happen at these checks, including instructions to: “Ask every woman, every time about her mental health. Never assume someone has already asked her.”

Dr Claire Fuller, NHS medical director for primary care and the service’s lead GP in England, said: “More than 600,000 women give birth every year in England, and so it is vital that they can get the right NHS mental health and physical support at what can be a hugely pressured moment in their lives.

“GPs are perfectly placed to offer new mums welfare checks… this new NHS guidance published today ensures that family doctors have the resources to provide this support.”

The guidance, produced in collaboration with the Royal College of GPs, tell doctors to ask about topics such as breastfeeding in a non-judgmental way. Further subjects include contraception, gestational diabetes and other medical conditions. And GPs should find out how women are healing physically by asking about their pelvic health.

Medics are also instructed to look out for red flags such as a change in the new mum’s mental state, thoughts of self-harm or feeling that they are incompetent as a mother or estranged from their baby.

Some 53,000 women have had specialist perinatal mental health support in the past year.

NHS England said the consultations should be personalised and not just about running through a list of questions. Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Mothers should be supported after giving birth.

“This includes being able to get the mental and physical health support needed for a healthy recovery – while giving newborns the best start in life.

“The postnatal check provides an important opportunity for GPs to listen to women in a discrete, supportive environment.

“This builds on part of a wider scheme of support – including making new maternal mental health services available across all areas of England by March 2024 and £25million to expand women’s health hubs.”

Women’s Health Ambassador Dame Lesley Regan said GPs giving advice on contraception would help women make safe and effective choices about future pregnancies.

She added: “This guidance will empower women to make more informed decisions about their health and their babies’ welfare.

“A major focus of our Women’s Health Strategy is to make the healthcare system work better for women.

“Having access to a comprehensive postnatal check by a GP will mean women can get on with their day-to-day lives swiftly. I think this guidance is a great step in the right direction.”

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