General Practitioners (GPs) are qualified doctors based in local surgeries. They focus on the whole of your health including physical, psychological and social aspects of your care. They will treat all common medical conditions and refer you to hospital or other specialist services if needed.
GPs and their primary care colleagues play an important role in identifying and supporting you and your family’s mental health issues in the perinatal period, can prescribe medication and refer on to voluntary or specialist services depending on your needs.
Midwives (MWs) are registered health care professionals offering care to the family during pregnancy, labour and birth and up to 28 days after the baby has been born. They can be based in the hospital or in the community and sometimes work in teams that provide continuity of care throughout the whole of your pregnancy and birth.
If a pregnancy or labour becomes complicated a midwife will refer you to a doctor, called an obstetrician, who is trained to deal with specific problems. Midwives are trained to support your mental health needs, as well as your physical wellbeing and are well placed to discuss any mental health concerns you may have, provide support, make initial assessments and refer you onto more specialist services if needed.
Independent midwives work outside the NHS.
Doulas and birth companions are not trained midwives but can provide support to you during pregnancy, birth and after your baby is born.
Health Visitors (HVs) are registered nurses or midwives that have undertaken additional training in community public health nursing. They work with families offering support and advice during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
Health Visitors lead the Healthy Child Programme which is a series of health and development reviews to support you and your baby.
At each contact, health visitors will be able to discuss your mental health and wellbeing, offer early advice and support and refer you quickly to other services if you need them.
Health visitors are also trained to support family relationships, including helping you to enjoy your new baby and adjust to being a new parent.
Specialist perinatal mental health services provide support and treatment for women with severe or complex mental health needs.
They are formed of community teams including psychiatrists, psychologists, specialist nurses and Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) which provide in-patient treatment and support if hospitalisation is required. Specialist PMH services have the skills to treat and nurse seriously ill women at the same time as supporting the developing relationship between parent and baby. They understand the physical and emotional care needs of mothers during the perinatal period and the different treatments they may require.
Specialist PMH services advise women with existing mental health needs to help them make informed decisions about pregnancy, birth plans, postnatal care and psychosocial factors such as stress and depression. They also provide information and support to the partners of women under their care, as they may also experience mental health problems.
You will have a named health visitor and their name, base and contact details will be at the front of your personal child health record, also referred to as the red book.
Your midwife will give you your red book during pregnancy.