In recognition of World Mental Health day this week, National Childbirth Trust’s Hidden Half Initiative is asking for more funding for the all-important six-week postnatal check-up.
The recommended six-week postnatal check-up aims to uncover new mothers’ physical or mental health problems. However, the National Childbirth Trust has found that 54% of women don’t feel they can honest about their mental health. For some mums, it’s a case of not having enough time during their appointment. Other mums find they feel embarrassed or ashamed, as though saying they’re struggling is failing somehow. We know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Knowing how and when to get the help you need is all part of becoming a parent. What’s important is that GPs have enough time to make mums feel relaxed enough to open up.
The Campaign: Hidden Half
‘Hidden Half’ is a campaign run by NCT calling for more government funding for the six-week check. The idea is that with more money, GPs will be able to give both babies and mums more time. That way, mums who are struggling won’t feel too rushed to talk about it. Plus, a longer appointment gives GPs the chance to create a relaxed environment, in which new mums are more likely to open up.
“It’s hard for mums to discuss their mental health when appointments are so short and mainly focused on their babies. There often isn’t enough time to ask them how they’re feeling. A postnatal appointment dedicated to mothers is long overdue and can give health professionals the time to make mums feel comfortable enough to open up and discuss their worries.” Sarah McMullen, NCT
Filling in forms is so impersonal, and most of us don’t feel able to open up to a sheet of A4. Asking open-ended questions in a non-judgmental and empathetic way is far more effective than supplying questionnaires to new mums. Questions like “How are you finding being a mum?”; “How was it getting everything together this morning?” and “Who’s looking after you?”, are much better because they normalise how hard it can be for lots of mums.
When women do access the all-important treatments available to them, 82% of them find it useful, so it’s essential that they are heard. Some mothers find the very idea of treatment as shaming or proof that they can’t cope. This couldn’t be less true and treatments vary enormously from counselling and online therapy to medication.
We think it’s important to remember that for a lot of us, just being heard and feeling able to be honest can go a long way in helping us feel supported. Sometimes a problem shared is truly a problem halved.