Mental health specialists Sasha Singh and Parveen Bhatia told delegates at Primary Care 2012 of the importance of staying on top of maternal mental health right after birth.

"Week one following childbirth is by far the period of highest risk of perinatal mental health disorders," Singh explained.

The modern matron from Hackney Centre for Mental Health advised health visitors to report any signs of regrets or concerns about the birth in the final three weeks of pregnancy to a mental health specialist.

"Over a third of maternal suicide is due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions with bipolar the top trigger for postpartum depression," she added.

Her Hackney colleague, a clinical nurse, told delegates in the 'Mother and Baby' Hall about a case study of an occupational therapist Cambridge graduate who suffered from a schizo-affective disorder before urging primary carers to note any breakdown in relationships for new mothers.

"Lack of connection with any close relative, not just their baby, is often a sign of mental health disorder in the perinatal period," Bhatia said.

The pair concluded by stressing the importance of local agreements on managing mild or moderate anxiety and depression including putting self-help systems in place for new mothers, while also having a clear structure of multi-disciplinary teams in place to ensure thorough follow-up for all women for the whole of the first year after birth.