Politics

‘It Was Heartbreaking’: New Mums’ Mental Health Is Still Being Ignored

New mums aren’t being asked about their mental health at their six-week check, new research reveals, directly contradicting guidelines given to GPs.

A quarter of new mums who’ve given birth in the past 12 months say they were not asked about their emotional or mental health at their six-week GP check-up, according to the survey of nearly 1,000 mothers by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). This is a huge figure – and could be up to 150,000 new mums in the last year.

In addition, the majority of mums (85%) said the appointment was focused on the baby’s health, despite a policy change in 2020 that stipulated all new mums should receive an appointment to check their own physical and mental health.

Kate Silverton, a 32-year-old first-time mum from Poole in Dorset, had a traumatic birth and says she was offered “no help with recovery in lockdown”.

“I didn’t have my usual support system, so I thought my health checks would be longer to see if everything was okay, but they felt so rushed,” she tells HuffPost UK. “We didn’t really get the normal things a new family gets because of the pandemic – no family or friends around to help. It was heartbreaking, really.”

Kate Silverton

Silverton describes the early days of being a new mum as “very emotional,” and says she’s been struggling with anxiety. However, the only question she’s been asked regarding her mental health is: “You’re alright, aren’t you?”

“I did want to discuss mental health but didn’t feel able to do so in the circumstances,” she says. “I think it would have been hugely positive to have been asked about my mental health at that stage. It would have helped me to open up and discuss the concerns I was having.”

The NCT findings follow an exclusive report from HuffPost UK in June 2020 that revealed six-week checks for mums were cancelled, cut short or conducted over the phone last year, meaning mums did not receive adequate care.

“It would have helped me to open up and discuss the concerns I was having.”

– Kate Silverton, a 32-year-old first-time mum from Poole in Dorset

At the time, a spokesperson for the NHS told HuffPost UK staff were working “around the clock” to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, “while also ensuring vital services like six to eight week checks can still take place in a safe way”.

Nana-Adwoa Mbeutcha, who gave birth in March 2020, said she was “feeling a bit low” and would have benefitted from talking to a professional, but her telephone appointment was cancelled. When she did eventually see someone face-to-face, she wasn’t given the chance to talk about her mental health.

“I was not seen at all or spoken to at all about how I am – it was all to do with the baby,” she said. “He had his checks and his vaccinations, but it was all done quickly – not in a rushed way that wasn’t taking care, but there was no dilly-dallying. It was a case of ‘let’s get you in and get you out as soon as possible.’”

Nana-Adwoa Mbeutcha

Nana-Adwoa Mbeutcha

Sherica, a 30-year-old second-time mum based in Harlow, Essex, told us how her baby’s six-week appointment was postponed and rolled into his 10-week immunisations. She didn’t receive a physical examination to see if she had healed after birth and was not asked about her own wellbeing.

“I know they normally check in on people’s mental health and how they are doing, but it was nothing like that,” said Sherica, who chose not to share her surname. “In terms of how my body is physically, I was not seen, I was not given an examination, I was not asked any questions.”




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