UCL News


Press cutting: Pregnancy depression 'is missed'

28 February 2007

GPs and midwives need to do more to spot signs of depression in pregnant women and new mothers, a health watchdog has said.

The National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said women with anxiety or eating disorders also need to be identified.

Up to one in seven women experience a mental health disorder at some point in pregnancy or after the birth.

Mental health experts welcomed the new guidance.

They say it might help to increase the number of women who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Current estimates suggest the figure could be as low as 30%.

Dr Steve Pilling [UCL Psychology], a consultant clinical psychologist who worked on the guidance, said there was "very significant under-recognition" of mental health issues in pregnancy.

NICE advises healthcare staff dealing with pregnant women of new mothers to ask three questions during ante or postnatal checks:

  • Have you felt down, depressed or hopeless during the last month?
  • Have you been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?
  • Is this something you feel you need or want help with?

The guidance states that women needing psychological treatment should normally be seen within one month and no longer than three months after an initial assessment.

Treatments may include counselling or anti-depressants, with the health worker explaining how medication may affect breastfeeding.

Experts who worked on the guidance said it was important to identify women not seeking help because they feared being seen as a 'bad mother'.

They warned that leaving mental illness untreated could have consequences for both mother and child, including poor educational performance for the child and anxiety.

BBC News Online