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NICE looking into improving mental health support offered to new mothers

Thursday 16th February 2017
NICE believes GPs should use six-week postnatal appointments to ask women about their mental health. Image: evgenyatamanenko via iStock
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Better mental health support is needed for new and expectant mothers in the UK, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The healthcare body has published a series of indicators for doctors and nurses to take note of that could be a sign a woman is struggling with her mental health while getting to grips with motherhood.

For instance, NICE has highlighted that a dramatic shift in appetite or sleeping patterns can simply be related to the natural changes of the body during pregnancy, but that they could also signify an underlying mental health issues, such as the onset of postnatal depression.

With this in mind, NICE has suggested that GPs should use a new mother's six-week follow-up appointment after she has given birth to question her about her mental health in order to spot any signs of potential issues as early as possible. NICE hopes that this will lead to more women accessing support earlier so their long-term health and the wellbeing of their baby is not adversely affected.

The organisation is now considering whether or not providing more formal mental health support to women in the weeks after they have delivered a baby should be a motion that it moves forward with this year. Other draft indicators currently being mooted include changes to the current cervical cancer screening model, as well as investigating how diabetes could be prevented in the future.

Chair of the NICE indicator advisory committee Professor Daniel Keenan explained: "Indicators are a key part of NICE's drive to improve people's lives, enhance the quality of care in the NHS and use its resources wisely."

Dr Andrew Black, deputy chair of the committee, added: "GPs play a vital role in helping vulnerable people to get the correct diagnosis and the support they need.

"These indicators, put forward by NICE, could help GPs to identify and support their patients who are most at risk. This can only be a good thing."

Written by Angela Newbury

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