Released on: 05 September 2019

Nearly half (47%) of mothers who’ve recently given birth get less than three minutes or no time at all to discuss their mental and physical health at a postnatal check, according to new research by NCT (National Childbirth Trust) and Netmums.

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The recommended six-week postnatal check-up with a health professional is meant to uncover mums’ and babies’ health difficulties, but research found:

  • Nearly a third (31%) of new mothers got less than three minutes to discuss their own health at the appointment, as most of the time was devoted to the baby.
  • Additionally, around a sixth (16%) of mums were given no time at all to discuss their own health, with the whole appointment focused on their baby.
  • A quarter (25%) of mothers were not asked about their emotional or mental health during the appointment.

These new statistics are released as part of NCT’s #HiddenHalf campaign, which calls for full funding of the six-week check so that health professionals have the time to give all new mothers their own appointment, rather than squeezing it in with an examination of their baby. Without funding, many GP surgeries are unable to provide specific maternal appointments. Sarah McMullen, Head of Knowledge, NCT, said:

“Many new mums don’t find it easy to admit they are struggling so it’s impossible to make them feel comfortable enough to discuss their concerns in less than three minutes.

“It’s vital mothers are given adequate opportunity to discuss any health problems to prevent them from getting worse. If they aren’t given the support they need at this crucial time it can have a devastating impact on the whole family.”

NCT research has also found that 82% of mothers who received treatment for their emotional or mental health said it helped. Dr Stephanie de Giorgio, a Kent GP, said:

“As a GP who’s looked after postnatal women for years, I know many of them can find it difficult to talk to us for all sorts of reasons. Dedicated time for them is vital so we can find out who is struggling and let them know how to seek help if they start to find things too difficult. 
 
“The only way that health professionals are going to be able to do this is if the government and NHS England agree to fund an appointment solely for new mothers.”

Anne-Marie O'Leary, Netmums Editor in Chief, said:

"We are doing the nation’s families a huge disservice by continuing to neglect the mental health of mums postpartum, which this new research from NCT brings into sharp focus. Maternal mental health is a key predictor in future outcomes for children, so it’s in all of our best interests to act now to better support mums with newborns. 
 
“Netmums wholeheartedly supports the call for full funding of a dedicated six-week check for mums – we know from the overwhelming number of mums who come to the Netmums forum, struggling with their mental health, that not providing support early on to mums who’ve just had a baby only leads to bigger problems, and greater suffering for all the family later on."

Join the #HiddenHalf campaign

NCT and Netmums urge people to sign up to the Hidden Half campaign and bring postnatal mental illness out of hiding. 

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