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Services failing women with perinatal depression and anxiety

BSMS > About BSMS > News > 2017 > Services failing women with perinatal depression and anxiety

Services failing women with perinatal depression and anxiety

There is a shortage of adequate mental health services available women suffering from perinatal depression and anxiety, according to a new study.

Nearly one in five women suffer such from mental health problems at some point during the perinatal period, from conception up until 12 months after the birth of the child, and this can have very serious consequences for mothers, babies and families. 

Dr Elizabeth Ford, Lecturer in Research Methodology in Primary Care and Public Health at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and colleagues conducted a review of the published research literature on perinatal depression and anxiety, revealing some worrying findings about diagnosis and treatment of these disorders. GPs and others working in primary care, including midwives and health visitors, are likely to be the first point of contact for women with these problems, but there is a serious shortage of community-based services to which women can then be referred for treatment. 

Dr Ford said: “It can be challenging for GPs to manage mental health problems in the perinatal period. GPs report that current guidelines are not helpful and they prefer to use an individualised approach with perinatal women. The shortage of specialised community perinatal mental health teams means many GPs feel isolated in dealing with perinatal mental health problems. Because of the lack of appropriate services, women who would benefit most from talking therapies are instead being treated with antidepressants, which they may be reluctant to take.”

Dr Ford’s team suggested a number of ways to improve perinatal mental health provision. These include better GP training in perinatal mental health, identifying a GP lead within practices to liaise with midwives, health visitors and mental health services, and ensuring that funding for perinatal mental health finds its way into primary care.

The study has been published in the British Journal of General Practice. Read the article here >