NHS boosts health support for new mums

All new mums in England will receive a more comprehensive mental and physical check-up from their GP in the weeks after they give birth, thanks to new NHS guidance published today.

GPs will carry out the comprehensive postnatal check-up 6 to 8 weeks after women give birth covering a range of topics such as mental health, physical recovery, breastfeeding, and will support them with family planning.

Around 600,000 women give birth in England every year and they are all entitled to a postnatal check-up after they give birth, in addition to the newborn check-up.

The new NHS guidance written in collaboration with the Royal College of GPs asks family doctors to provide personalised postnatal care for their physical and mental health, and support them with family planning.

One of the country’s most senior GPs said the guidance would boost postnatal care and encouraged women to attend the important check-up.

Dr Claire Fuller, NHS Medical Director for Primary Care and the NHS’ lead GP in England said: “More than 600,000 women give birth every year in England, and so it is vital that they can get the right NHS mental health and physical support at what can be a hugely pressured moment in their lives.

“GPs are perfectly placed to offer new mums a welfare checks 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth – for not only their physical health but also their mental wellbeing and this new NHS guidance published today ensures that family doctors have the resources to provide this comprehensive support.

“If you are a new or expectant mum and struggling with your mental health, the NHS is here to help so please come forward through your GP practice or midwifery team”.

The routine check-up is an opportunity for GPs to assess and support women not just in their physical recovery post-birth but also their mental health, making sure any woman needing extra mental health support can be referred, if appropriate, to a specialist straight away.

Over the past year, over 53,000 new mothers received specialist perinatal mental health support and dozens of new maternal mental health services have been set up by the NHS across the country.  Every local system now has access to a specialist community perinatal mental health team who can offer specialised care for a range of issues.

This new guidance also outlines conversation points for GPs to discuss breastfeeding, physical recovery, pelvic health, contraception and any preexisting medical conditions or conditions that arose during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes. The aim is for the consultation to be tailored to what is important to the woman, rather than a checklist of questions.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Mothers should be supported after giving birth. This includes being able to get the mental and physical health support needed for a healthy recovery – while giving new-borns the best start in life.

“The postnatal check provides an important opportunity for GPs to listen to women in a discrete, supportive environment.

“This builds on part of a wider scheme of support – including making new maternal mental health services available across all areas of England by March 2024 and £25 million to expand women’s health hubs”.

Women’s Health Ambassador Dame Lesley Regan said: “Supporting GPs to advise on contraception after giving birth makes it more convenient and easier for women to make safe, effective choices about the many benefits of spacing their future pregnancies.

“This new advice for GPs around the long-term health implications of conditions that may first appear during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, and depression, will mean women are offered guidance about conditions that may develop or become more severe later in life. This guidance will empower women to be able to make more informed decisions about their own health and their babies’ welfare.

“A major focus of our Women’s health strategy is to make the healthcare system work better for women. Having access to a comprehensive post-natal check by a GP will mean women can get on with their day to day lives swiftly. I think this guidance is a great step in the right direction”.