Guidance on maternal mental health issued

New guidance has been announced regarding common issues linked to maternal health and wellbeing. The Department of Health has revealed a maternal mental health pathway that focuses on a number of factors mothers face from pregnancy through to the early months of their child's life.

These include the roles played by health visitors and partners in midwifery, as well as issues such as mental health and general practice.

The pathway details the benefits of using professionals such as health visitors and GPs as they aim to work together and deliver an integrated approach to provide the best service to mothers.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Kavita Vedhara of the University of Nottingham welcomed the Department of Health's attempt to address the physical and emotional needs of both mums and babies in the prenatal and postnatal phases of early life.

Dr Vedhara - who has worked on the related research Maternal Mood and Neuroendocrine Programming: Effects of Time of Exposure and Sex and Relationship of Early Childhood Illness with Adult Cortisol in the Barry Caerphilly Growth (BCG) Cohort - commented: "There is very clear evidence that babies are susceptible to external influences from the very earliest stages of development - with factors such as [the] mother's mood and nutrition affecting the long-term emotional and physical health of the child through to adulthood.

"As noted in their guidance document, the announcement of the pathway is the critical first step in addressing the needs of families at this critical time. There will, however, be a need to ensure that the pathway is supported by infrastructure which will ensure the workforce has the training necessary to identify and address the needs of families and that appropriate measures are used to evaluate effectiveness.

"Inevitably, the pathway will identify areas of unmet need in terms of training, interventions and assessment. But this will provide a very helpful framework for identifying areas requiring further research."