In 2020, NHS England launched a six-week mental health check for new mothers to ensure they feel well and have the support they need if they are struggling with their mental health.
In this advice piece, we answer your questions about postnatal checks.
1. What is the six-week postnatal check?
GPs must offer a six-week postnatal check to all new mothers and birthing parents within six to eight weeks after birth. Your GP surgery should reach out to you to arrange your postnatal check. If they don't, you are entitled to request one.
The six-week mental health check for new mothers is separate from your baby's six- to eight-week review, which focuses on the health and development of your baby. The appointments can happen immediately after one another, or you can have them at separate times.
2. What should I expect from my six-week postnatal check with the GP?
At your appointment, your GP should:
- ask you about your mental health and general wellbeing
- ask you about your physical health following childbirth
- provide advice about family planning and contraception
- discuss any conditions that require ongoing management, such as gestational diabetes
However, GPs do not have set guidelines about what they should discuss with you, and appointments can vary depending on your GP practice. You may find it helpful to prepare for the appointment.
What's your experience?
With one in four women experiencing mental health problems during pregnancy and in the first year following the birth of a child, support from maternity services can significantly impact their mental health and wellbeing.
We want to know how your mental health was supported during pregnancy or after birth. Tell us your story to help improve care for other parents.
3. Do I need to prepare for the postnatal check?
It’s a good idea to make a list of questions to take along with you. It will help you reflect on how you feel and whether you need any support. It will also help kick-start the conversation with your doctor and get the most out of the appointment.
Some useful tips:
- Write down what you want to say in advance and take your notes with you.
- Try to get to the appointment early so that you don’t feel stressed for hours beforehand.
4. What should I tell my GP about?
The postnatal check is an opportunity for you to discuss your mental health and wellbeing and notify your GP of any issues.
It can be difficult to talk to the GP about your mental health, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is very common for new mothers to experience mental health difficulties. So it can be helpful to explain any changes to how you have been feeling over the past few weeks or months. Try to be honest and open with your GP so that you can access the right support as soon as possible.
It is entirely up to you what you want to highlight, but some of the things you may wish to tell your doctor could be:
- You’re feeling sad, overwhelmed or anxious when looking after the baby.
- Difficulty bonding with the child.
- You’re feeling lonely.
- You're having trouble holding in your pee or wind, or you're soiling yourself with poo.
- Having sex is painful.
- Suicidal thoughts.
5. How can the GP support me with my mental health?
Your six-week check is an opportunity to raise any concerns about your mental health with the GP. Your GP can support you in different ways, such as:
- Providing information such as information booklets and resources.
- Signposting to local support services, including third-sector and voluntary services.
- Referring to local or specialist services, for instance, specialist perinatal mental health teams, parent and infant mental health teams, home-start, psychological services such as IAPT and other national equivalents, and adult mental health services.
6. I didn’t get the support I needed from the GP, what next?
It's so important that you feel supported as a new parent. This article outlines where you can go to get the help you need.
7. How long will the appointment be for?
The length of the appointment will depend on your GP surgery. If you are concerned your appointment length will not be enough time, you can ask for a longer one.
You can also take a partner or a friend with you to the appointment if you feel you need their support.
Looking for more support?
Read more about what happens at your NHS six-week postnatal check.