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BACKGROUND: Pregnancy and the postnatal period is a period of potential vulnerability for women and families. It is UK policy that all women are asked about their mental health and wellbeing early in pregnancy and following the birth to help detect potential problems and prevent serious adverse outcome. However, identification of mental health problems in pregnancy may be less than 50 %. The aim of the study was to find out which women are asked about their mood and mental health during pregnancy and postnatally, and about offer and uptake of treatment. METHODS: Secondary analysis of a national maternity survey carried out in 2014 which asked about sociodemographic factors, care in pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period with specific questions on emotional and mental health. RESULTS: The usable response rate to the survey was 47 % (4571 women). Most women recalled being asked about their mental health in pregnancy (82 %) and in the postnatal period (90 %). However, antenatally, Asian and older women were less likely to be asked and to be offered treatment. In the postnatal period, differences were more marked. Non-white women, those living in more deprived areas, and those who had received less education were less likely to be asked about their mental health, to be offered treatment, and to receive support. Women with a trusting relationship with their midwife were more likely to be asked about their mental health. CONCLUSION: The inequities described in this study suggest that the inverse care law is operating in relation to this aspect of maternity care. Those women most likely to be in need of support and treatment are least likely to be offered it and may be at risk of serious adverse outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Psychiatry

Publication Date





Maternal wellbeing, Mental health, Postnatal, Pregnancy, Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Ethnic Groups, Female, Humans, Mental Disorders, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Puerperal Disorders, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom, Young Adult