The RCGP has launched a resource hub for GPs to help advise patients struggling with perinatal mental health conditions.
The college said GPs sometimes struggle to advise mothers-to-be on mental health issues as women can be worried about speaking up due to the fear of stigma, or even of having their baby taken away from them.
The new resource includes a 10-question tool to assess signs of perinatal health issues at an early stage so GPs and patients can begin to discuss support options as early as possible.
The toolkit also includes links to charities and social media support groups.
Perinatal mental health issues, which affect up to one in five women during pregnancy and the first year of the child’s life, are currently a clinical priority for the RCGP.
RCGP clinical champion Dr Judy Shakespeare said she hoped the resource would help GPs in ‘broaching what can be difficult conversations around mental health’.
She said: ‘While our attitudes to mental health issues seem to be improving as a society, a terrible stigma still surrounds mothers with mental health problems, not least from the women themselves who think they are being judged as “bad” mothers or are frightened that their child will be taken away if they open up about how they are feeling.’
RCGP perinatal mental health special interest group represenative Dr Stephanie de Giorgio, who has herself experienced perinatal mental health problems in the past, said: ‘Knowing that these resources are available for GPs and healthcare professionals – and patients themselves – could make all the difference to a nervous mother who is worried that her children might be taken away or who hasn’t been able to ask for help anywhere else.’