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There has been significant attention given in recent years to the risk of postnatal depression. Increasing awareness has led to screenings at postnatal checkups, in addition to the issuing of education materials from the hospital to new mothers following delivery.

While all of the attention given to postnatal depression is necessary and should be continued, there is also a need for education and awareness related to antenatal depression. A recent survey has shown that mothers with antenatal depression are at an increased risk of developing additional mental health problems when compared with women diagnosed with postnatal depression.

The survey was launched through a team effort by the Royal College of Midwives and Netmums, both of Great Britain. The snapshot survey found that over one-third of pregnant women who meet criteria for depression are plagued by suicidal thoughts.

In addition, the survey, which included 260 mothers with antenatal depression, provides evidence that those who are diagnosed with antenatal depression may be at an even greater risk for worsening mental health when compared with those who suffer from postnatal depression.

Among the women identified as having antenatal depression, only 22 percent talked to their general practitioner about their symptoms and treatment. Experts indicate that more support is needed for women suffering from antenatal depression.

The British Department of Health recently indicated that increased funds will go towards improving maternal facilities and education efforts to help mothers recognize the signs of postnatal depression. Cathy Warwick of the Royal College of Midwives explains that identifying the problem early can prevent women from developing more serious mental health issues.

The survey found that 80 percent of those who were diagnosed with antenatal depression were also diagnosed with postnatal depression. Approximately 56 percent of those surveyed said that they had depression during their first pregnancy, but nearly 66 percent reported problems during the second pregnancy.

Over half of the women say that the symptoms didn’t affect only themselves. They indicated that their depression also made it hard for them to have a healthy relationship with their baby, and 38 percent said that their depression inhibited the bonding process.

The results also highlight the need for more attention and awareness among healthcare providers. Only approximately 30 percent of respondents said that they were educated by their midwife about antenatal depression and the majority of the women said that it took several months before they recognized the signs of a problem.

In fact, only 27 percent of those involved in the survey said that they were asked how they were doing emotionally during their pregnancy.

Warwick explains that the findings indicate s serious need to educate women with both antenatal and postnatal depression. Early intervention may prevent the occurrence of more serious mental health problems later.

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