Dear Obstetric Shared Care GPs,

It is so important for pregnant women to be able to access perinatal screening, not only for DV, substance abuse or other mental health genetic predispositions but also to determine the level of surrounding support, anxiety, stress and general emotions about having a baby, particularly during COVID-19 times.

A recent article cited in the NewsGP reports one in five mothers are not receiving mental health checks.

Screening rates have improved significantly, but experts say there is much more work to be done.

The percentage of women screened both antenatally and postnatally increased from 21.3% to 79.3% between 2000 and 2017.

The percentage of women not screened decreased from 40.6% to 1.7% over the same period.

Despite the encouraging results, the study also found one in five women do not receive these mental health checks, and at-risk women are more likely than others to miss out. 

Women who reported emotional distress in the survey before giving birth were 23% less likely to have been screened antenatally and postnatally than women who had not reported emotional distress.

Furthermore, older mothers were 35% less likely to be screened during pregnancy and after birth than younger mothers.

Overall, findings suggest perinatal mental health screening has improved considerably. However, screening is not yet universal and 21% of women are not being screened in accordance with clinical practice guidelines. Women have frequent contact with a wide range of healthcare practitioners during the perinatal period. This opportunity to identify women at risk of mental health issues is too important to be missed.

Screening needs to be done through formal assessment at 28 weeks’ gestation and again at six weeks after delivery. It is also important, however, to ask every woman at every visit if they are okay, and if they are safe.

Don’t forget to visit our GP Partners Australia website for further updates and resources

We trust this – and future updates – will be of help to you during these unsettling times.
Stay safe.