MIDWIVES and GPs are being trained to spot signs of mental health problems in women due to give birth or who have just had a baby.
Spotlight is a pilot project being held in Portsmouth and the wider Wessex region, including Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight, and is raising awareness and the profile of perinatal mental health issues.
We have been educating GPs and other medical teams about the different types of mental health problems, how they can be prevented and what can be done to treat them.Dr Penny Wilson
It comes as figures show one in five women experience problems while pregnant or up to a year after giving birth and suicide is the leading cause of death in women in the period of between six weeks and one year after delivery.
Penny Wilson, a GP in Portsmouth, is a trainer in the pilot scheme, held in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners, and is helping others in primary care to understand perinatal mental health.
She said: ‘Spotlight is about working with GPs and anyone involved with pregnant women, health visitors and midwives, to raise the profile and awareness of perinatal health problems.
‘We know there are big problems within that demographic of women and it is still seen as a bit of a taboo subject.
‘Research into the problem shows women feel they weren’t given the opportunity to talk about the issues or they were diagnosed too late.
‘We have been educating GPs and other medical teams about the different types of mental health problems, how they can be prevented and what can be done to treat them.’
As well as training from Penny, a GP partner at Trafalgar Group Medical Practice, there is also a range of online resources for the medical teams involved with women during their pregnancy and immediately after giving birth.
As part of the proposals they have looked at case studies, assessing what could have been done differently.
They have also learned how to approach the subject sensitively and help women feel at ease.
Penny added: ‘There is still a big fear and women worry about coming forward. They worry about their children being taken by social services or people thinking they aren’t good enough parents.
‘It isn’t about that at all but being able to provide the support they need.
‘Spotlight is a big step in the right direction to helping these women.’