Lack of training is causing midwives to overlook signs of depression in expectant mothers, according to research at Hull University.
This is despite a clear remit for health professionals working with pregnant women and new mothers issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Said Hull researcher Dr Julie Jomeen: "Midwives do not often receive sufficient formal training in antenatal depression, and because some of the symptoms overlap with pregnancy, such as tiredness and emotional instability, it can be difficult to detect."
She is now working with the Acute Trust, Mental Health Trust, two primary care trusts and the voluntary sector on a training and treatment regime that other UK regions could follow.
It is estimated that a tenth of mothers – 70,000 a year in the UK – suffer from antenatal or postnatal depression. The former includes anxiety, unwanted pregnancies and low self-esteem.
Hull now has a dedicated team including a consultant psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist and two mental health nurses. They provide training, advice and support for GPs, midwives and health visitors to help them recognise the condition.