Midwives demonstrate during a training

THOUSANDS of women with postnatal depression are being failed by GPs and midwives, a report warns. 

It reveals how half of new mothers experienced mental health problems either during their pregnancy or within the first year of the birth.

But 42 per cent were not diagnosed or offered help by their GP, midwife or other health professional. Some said doctors didn’t have time to talk to them properly or dismissed their concerns as normal for mothers.

The research was carried out by the National Childbirth Trust which said the failures were having a devastating impact on women and their young families. The charity also highlighted inadequacies in the six week check-up – the routine GP appointment offered to all new mothers after the birth.

This is a vital opportunity to pick up any physical or mental health issues which have arisen in women or their babies.

But more than a fifth said GPs didn’t even ask after their emotional wellbeing and a third said the appointment was rushed.

Another 20 per cent of those who did have a mental health problem were too afraid to talk about it. The survey involved 1,012 women whose children were now two years old.

Common mental health problems included post natal depression, anxiety, stress and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

The NHS is meant to be prioritising mental health and ensuring the treatment is on a par for physical conditions such as cancer.

But the NCT said too many new mothers were suffering alone and called for a major overhaul in the six week postnatal check.  Sarah McMullen, of the NCT, said: ‘It is shocking that so many new mothers aren’t getting the help they need. Some mothers aren’t being open about how they’re feeling as they’re terrified they’re going to have their baby taken away and others are not being asked about their emotional wellbeing at all.

‘A third of women said their six-week check was rushed and for some, it lasted only three minutes.’

The survey also suggests that many more women are suffering from post natal depression than once thought. Previous figures have shown it only affects one in ten new mothers. 

GPs took issue with the findings and said it was hard to spot all conditions in short appointments. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘It’s incredibly hard for GPs to explore all the physical and psychological factors affecting our patients’ health within the time constraints of the consultation as it stands.

‘We need these checks to be much longer as standard, so that we are able to give the same attention to the new mother as we do to the baby – but this needs more resources for our service, and more GPs.

‘Unfortunately, offering longer appointments means offering fewer appointments, and our patients are already waiting longer than they should be.’

© Daily Mail