One in five new mums claim they have received conflicting advice from their GP and midwife about what to expect in their 6-week postnatal check, with nearly half saying the check overall was not thorough enough.
Charity NCT polled more than 4,000 women to find that 26% of women felt their check was rushed; with a fifth of check-ups (19.4%) lasting less than 5 minutes; and 7% admitting they wanted to talk about how they were feeling but there wasn’t time.
The six week check was created by NICE as an opportunity to discuss any developing signs of postnatal depression.
However, 29% of women said their GP did not ask them about any emotional or mental health issues. And 22% of women admitted they were not truthful during the appointment but put a brave face on to hide how they really felt.
Wellbeing of women & their infants promotoed
Professor Debra Bick, Professor of Evidence Based Midwifery Practice at King’s College London said: "Sadly, these findings are not surprising. Studies conducted over the last two decades found a wide range of postnatal physical and mental health problems, some of which persisted for months or even years after the birth. A six to eight week check-up is an important opportunity to identify how women are feeling physically and mentally and ensure those who may benefit from longer follow-up continue to receive the care they need.
"These findings add further evidence to the need to ensure all women are offered postnatal care which is individualised and tailored to their needs. We have the evidence. Consideration now needs to be given to the potential to revise the content and timing of postnatal services if longer-term cost savings for the NHS are to be achieved and the health and wellbeing of women and their infants promoted."
Other key findings included:
• 20% of parents said their check lasted up to five minutes, and 36% said it lasted between five and 10 minutes.
• 33% did not know what to expect at the check (for example, because their midwife did not tell them).
• There was a lack of consistency in questions asked at the appointments: Only 11% of women had their urine tested; 56% of women had their blood pressure tested; 46% were asked about periods and vaginal discharge.
• Of those that did not have a 6 week check, 20% said they weren’t aware of the check and 57% said that looking back, they wish they could have attended a six week check.
Belinda Phipps, CEO of NCT added: "The six week postnatal check-up is a key opportunity to spot potential problems for new mums. Problems such as postnatal depression can develop from this stage, as well as other physical and psychological disorders, so it is worrying that almost a third of women were not even asked about how they felt. Identification early on is crucial.
"We need to ensure that GPs are aware of the right questions to ask, to be asking them directly and acting promptly in response when necessary. If a GP or midwife has concerns about a woman with a new baby, they need to have a robust referral system in place."
To read the findings in full visit www.nct.org.uk/sixweekcheck.