Health visitors with training reduce numbers with post natal depression

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The period following childbirth can be a difficult time for many women and statistics have shown that around one in ten women will experience symptoms of depression after giving birth.

Now a recent study has revealed that women who see a health visitor who has had extra training in mental health are less likely to develop post natal depression in the six months following childbirth.

The study was carried out by researchers at Leicester University, Nottingham University and Sheffield University and involved over 2,000 women who had given birth and who were from the Trent area in England.

These women were followed for a period of a year and half following the birth of their child. Around 1,500 received support from a health visitor who had special training in mental health and a further 767 had their support from a standard health visitor who hadn’t undergone extra mental health training.

The study started six weeks after the birth of the baby and at that time none of the women were experiencing depression reported the BBC.

An analysis of the data at the end of the study showed that the women who received support from health visitors who had extra training in mental health were 30 percent less likely to develop post natal depression in the six months following childbirth than those women seeing a standard health visitor who had no extra training.

Terry Brugha from Leiciester Clinical Division of Psychiatry and who led the study told the BBC:

“This study shows that women are less likely to become depressed in the year after childbirth if they are attended by an NHS health visitor who has undergone additional training in specific mental health assessment and in psychological approaches based on either cognitive behavioural or listening techniques.”

At the moment there is a shortage of NHS health visitors in many parts of the UK and the researchers were unable to replicate their research in other parts of England because of this shortage. There simply weren’t enough health visitors.

“Mothers were fortunate if they receive just one home visit from a health visitor” Professor Brugha told the BBC.

The study also revealed that many health visitors didn’t take the extra mental health training because they couldn’t take the necessary time off work.

The government has said it is committed to increasing the number of health visitors in the country, let’s hope they do this sooner rather than later.

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