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New NICE Guidelines Released To Help Women With Mental Health Problems Before, During And After Pregnancy

Women at risk of mental health problems before, during or after pregnancy should receive more support, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has said today

This comes two weeks after the bodies of Charlotte Bevan, 30, and her newborn daughter Zaani Tiana were found dead in the Avon Gorge, after Charlotte, who had suffered from depression and schizophrenia went missing from her maternity ward.

Around 12% of women experience depression and 13% experience anxiety at some point, many women will experience both, according to NICE. Depression and anxiety disorders also affect 1 in 5 women in the first year after childbirth.


The range of disorders which women may experience include depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, among others.

New guidelines are now available on using drugs to treat mental health problems during pregnancy and on stopping medication.

The update will help doctors, nurses, health visitors and midwives to identify mental health problems in mothers and pregnant women.  It also offers guidance on the most appropriate drugs or other treatments to offer safely to mother and child. Furthermore, it also states that women and their partners, who have had a traumatic experience such as a very difficult birth, should be offered extra support and makes clear recommendations about what should be offered to mothers who have suffered a miscarriage or whose baby is still-born.


Commenting on the newly updated guideline Professor Mark Baker, NICE Centre for Clinical Practice director, said: ‘Mental health problems during and after pregnancy are common. Giving women the right treatment at the right time can have a profound effect – not just for the mother, but her family too. The effect of getting this right can last for years.

‘The guidance makes a number of new and updated recommendations, covering not only treatments, but also in providing women who are newly diagnosed or with a history of mental health problems with the information and support they need before they become pregnant.’

Professor Stephen Pilling, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Clinical Effectiveness, UCL, added: ‘Having a baby is a time of huge change and any woman can find herself needing help. This updated guideline is about spotting what is not normal for each woman and making sure she gets the right treatment.

‘Women with a history of mental health problems are at risk of relapse when they become pregnant, especially if they stop taking their medication. Drugs often have an important role in treating antenatal and postnatal mental health problems, but they are not always suitable and so we have again emphasised the need for rapid access to effective psychological interventions. It is critically important that a woman is able to make an informed decision about treatment and she is helped to weigh up the risks and benefits of stopping, starting or changing any treatment she is offered or currently receiving.’

The guideline is available on the NICE website from today, Wednesday 17 December 2014.

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