What is the six-week postnatal check?
Your GP surgery must offer a postnatal check within six to eight weeks after birth. If they don't, you are entitled to request one. The purpose of this appointment is to check-in your mental and physical health, as well as your general wellbeing - to make sure you are feeling and recovering well.
What does it involve?
At the appointment, your GP should:
- ask how you're feeling, as part of a general discussion of your mental health and general wellbeing;
- ask questions relating to your physical health following the birth;
- check your blood pressure, if you had problems during pregnancy or immediately after the birth;
- offer advice about family planning, contraception, and Vitamin D supplements if you're breastfeeding;
- discuss any conditions that require ongoing management;
However, this can vary slightly depending on GP surgery. You might find it helpful to prepare for the appointment by making a copy of the list above, or of any questions you may have.
The length of the appointment will also vary depending on your GP surgery. If you would like a longer length appointment, you can ask for one. You can also take a friend or partner to the appointment if you would like their support.
Why is it important?
This six-week mental health check for new mothers is separate from your baby's six-week review. The appointments can happen immediately after one another, or you can have them at separate times - which you would prefer.
The postnatal check is a good opportunity for you to discuss your mental health and wellbeing, and to notify your GP of any issues. It can be difficult to talk to a GP about your mental health - especially if you're feeling overwhelmed. However, it is very common for new mother to experience mental health difficulties. It's absolutely not at a sign that you're a bad mother.
If you've experienced any changes in how you've been feeling over the past few weeks or months, it could be helpful to discuss this with the GP. Try to be honest and open with them, so you can access the right support.
What can the GP to do support me with my mental health?
Your GP can support you in various ways, such as:
- providing relevant information, including booklets and leaflets
- signposting to local support services, including third-sector and voluntary services
- referring you to local or specialist NHS services
What if I didn't get the support I needed from my GP?
It's really important that you feel supported as a new parent. This article from Healthwatch England outlines the range of options you have for getting the mental health support you need.