Four out of five women don’t reveal perinatal mental health problems

A new report on perinatal mental health has revealed significant levels of anxiety and depression in new mothers facing pressure to succeed as parents.

The report, published by the pregnancy research group Tommy’s, working with Netmums, the Institute of Health Visiting and the Royal College of Midwives and funded by the Boots Family Trust, shows data taken from a study of 1,500 women experiencing perinatal mental health problems and looks at the reasons behind it and the support sought.

Over 20% of the women surveyed had experienced suicidal thoughts, with over 40% not wanting to leave the house, and 30% stating that their symptoms persisted for at least 18 months. Despite the severity of their symptoms, the results show that many new mothers found it difficult to ask for or access the right levels of support for their mental health. 75% had not been able to share the extent of their issues with a health professional and 40% had received no treatment at all.

When asked about the reasons behind their symptoms, the most common answers given were focused on a “pressure to do things right” and a lack of appropriate support. Relatively few mothers pinned the causes on hormonal changes or a predisposition to depression.

It was also revealed that four out of five women (82%) had not been able to fully reveal their feelings to a health professional. Many women felt too embarrassed to raise the issue, or kept quiet for fear of having their baby taken away, and nearly a third (31%) stated a lack of continuity in care as the reason they had not been able to raise the issue.

2,000 health professionals also surveyed for the study backed up this concern, warning that a lack of continuity in care made it difficult for them to build up the trusting relationships that would allow mothers to raise mental health concerns without fear or embarrassment. Midwives and health visitors alike said that a combination of rushed appointments and the inability to see the same woman throughout her care were of particular concern.

Health professionals had said that the Whooley questionnaire recommended by current NICE guidelines was not sufficient for picking up the complexity of many symptoms. Following the study, Tommy’s are calling for three key measures:

1. An agreed method of spotting the signs of mental health problems.
2. A restructuring of care to ensure continuity
3. A wellbeing plan to encourage more open discussion of mental health throughout pregnancy and after birth. A draft wellbeing plan can be downloaded from the Tommy’s website.

One in seven women currently experience perinatal mental health problems.

Read the full report (Tommy’s).

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Does money affect children’s outcomes?

JRF, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has published a new report showing that money does have a casual impact on a range of children’s outcomes and that the impact is bigger for those at the lower end of the income distribution.

Children in low-income households do less well than their better-off peers on many outcomes in life, such as education or health, simply because they are poorer.

While a parent’s level of education, attitude towards bringing up children and other parental factors also have a bearing, research shows that having more money directly improves the development and level of achievement of children.

Increases in family income substantially reduce differences in schooling outcomes and improve wider aspects of a child’s well-being.   Cognitive development and school achievement were most improved by having more money.   Conversely, reductions in family income, including benefit cuts, are likely to have wide-ranging negative effects.   Money seems to have more of an effect among low-income families.

Click here to download the report (JRF)

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School readiness is not about academia, says Pacey study

PACEY, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, has published a new report showing the results of a survey which asked childcare professionals, parents and primary school teachers what it really means to be ‘school ready’.

Following several months of research, the report focuses on the idea that parents and professionals in the sector have a very different idea of school readiness to the one often stated by policy makers, which usually focuses on cognitive and academic skills including reading and writing.

Instead, it has been suggested that factors such as independence and confidence should be given more importance when helping a child to prepare for school. According to the report, 75% of teachers and 65% of parents felt that literacy was less important than a sense of independence, the ability to develop social skills and the confidence to be away from their parents.

Parents generally felt that they are the ones most responsible for preparing their own children for school. While many of the surveyed parents expressed difficulty in finding the time around work to fully prepare their children, 65% of parents felt that enrolment in a professional childcare setting was a key to success.

Around half of professionals responding the survey – 58% of teachers and 40% of childcare professionals – stated a need for a greater emphasis on play, expressing concerns that the importance of this aspect of early childhood development was being lost.

Download the full report (PACEY).

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Poor children’s life chances are decided in primary school, report finds

Figures show most poor pupils who fall behind by age of seven will fail to get five good GCSEs including English and maths.

More than four-fifths of children from low-income families who have fallen behind by the age of seven will fail to achieve five good GCSEs including English and maths – a glaring inequality that highlights the extent to which poor children’s life chances are determined in primary school, a leading charity says.

In a report looking at the most recent government figures, Save the Children argues that the ability to read, write and calculate at such a young age influences a child’s future earnings and health, and in economic terms the problem costs the country billions in lost revenue. The charity is calling for the pupil premium – primary school funding targeted at the poorest children – to be tripled.

By the time they are seven, nearly 80% of the difference in GCSE results between rich and poor children has already been determined. Save the Children says the first two years a child is at school are a crucial window during which to close the attainment gap.

Click here to download the report


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