In all of the UK’s four nations, we call for perinatal mental health training to be incorporated into the undergraduate and postgraduate syllabuses for all GPs, health visitors, midwives, obstetricians and mental health professionals.

We also call for the establishment of a national training strategy to make sure all relevant existing health professionals, and others who work closely with families in the perinatal period, including those in the community and voluntary sectors, have access to dedicated high-quality training.

Health professionals and others who work with families in the perinatal period can play a significant role in promoting good mental health, preventing mental health problems and making sure women and their families receive the best care, treatment and interventions.

Universal health professionals such as GPs, midwives and health visitors are ideally placed to care for women and families affected by a mild to moderate perinatal mental illness. They are also well positioned to identify women with, or at risk of, a severe perinatal mental illness and to refer them to specialist perinatal mental health services and provide ongoing support.

Not just Scotland

Scotland is the only UK nation to have a perinatal mental health training curriculum for people working in healthcare. We must make sure England, Wales and Northern Ireland follow their example, and implement the curricula.

Skills that all health professionals caring for women during the perinatal period should have

  • An understanding of the importance of identifying women at risk of developing serious mental health problems and the associated risk factors.
  • An ability to understand and distinguish normal emotional changes and common difficulties from a mental health problem, and being able to recognise the first signs of a problem.
  • Good listening skills and the ability to offer support, reassurance and understanding.
  • Knowledge of different types of disorders, their clinical features and an ability to distinguish between them.
  • Awareness of when and how to make referrals, and the range of different treatment options available.

Source: MIND. Out of the blue? Motherhood and depression. 2006.