A new poll has shown that 49 per cent of mothers who experienced postnatal depression (PND) chose not to seek professional help, with thousands more failing to receive it due to "serious shortcomings" in the referral system.

The Royal College of Psyschiatrists estimates 15 per cent of women in the UK suffer from PND, equating to 35,000 mothers who are not correctly treated for this common depressive illness associated with childbirth.

Leading charity 4Children polled 2,000 mothers and their findings showed that a third of women will suffer the condition without even knowing, while most that do are only prescribed treatments suitable for mild depression.

Their chief executive, Anne Longfield said: "Postnatal depression is a problem that, with the right help early on, can be treated successfully, avoiding long-term impact on the rest of the family.

"However, many families are suffering the consequences of postnatal depression in silence, and when they do seek help often encounter indifference from medical professionals with an over-reliance on antidepressants."

"This report calls for an end to the neglect of this destructive and prevalent illness to ensure that every mother is guaranteed the practical and emotional support she needs to avoid her unnecessary suffering and that of her family."

Symptoms of PND include severe depression and struggling to look after the newborn baby or even shower, cook and complete simple tasks.

While most mothers will suffer the condition shortly after birth, it's also common to begin during the pregnancy and can lead to family breakdown and children having to live with the "long-term consequences of poor early bonding."

Many of the sufferers surveyed said they feared coming forward about the illness because of the stigma attached to it and fear of what might happen to them or their baby.

Justine Roberts, co-founder of online support group Mumsnet, said: "Given the volume of women who support each other through postnatal depression on Mumsnet, it's no surprise that many more women suffer than the official figures show.

"There are lots of reasons why mothers find it easier to talk about anonymously but it's important all mothers get the full range of support they need to help them through this debilitating illness."

The report argues that health workers, including GPs, often fail to recognise or diagnose the condition early on and usually rely on antidepressants or talking therapy as treatment.

This failing is something that the Royal College of Midwives education and research manager, Sue McDonald, hopes to correct.

"The midwife is the key professional to provide information and support during pregnancy," she said.

"The need to prepare women and their families for the possibility that they may experience postnatal depression, and developing strategies for dealing with this is really important."


Posted on October 3 2011 at 1330 by Richard. Comment by emailing: richard.hook@pavpub.com