Post-natal depression 'untreated'
Thousands of new mothers are suffering in silence because their postnatal depression goes untreated, according to a new report.
The study, for the charity 4Children, says 35,000 mothers every year in England and Wales struggle with symptoms and do not get professional help.
Thousands more fail to receive prompt treatment due to "serious shortcomings" in the system for referral together with an "over-reliance" on antidepressants and the stigma attached to talking about the condition.
The charity's poll of more than 2,000 mums found that 49% who had suffered postnatal depression did not seek professional help, with first-time mums less likely than those with several children to do so (42% versus 54%).
A third (33%) said they were too scared to tell anyone about their depression because of fear over what might happen to themselves or their baby.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, 10% to 15% of women suffer from postnatal depression. It can include feeling very low, struggling to look after the baby, and finding simple tasks such as showering or cooking difficult to manage.
While postnatal depression usually starts within a few months of birth, around one in three women experience symptoms in pregnancy which then continue.
Treatment options depend on the severity of the depression, but include medication and counselling. Several celebrities, including actress Gwyneth Paltrow, have spoken of their experience of the condition, which experts argue should not be dismissed as the "baby blues".
The latest report says postnatal depression is leading to relationship difficulties and breakdown, pressure on older children to look after babies and children living with the "long-term consequences of poor early bonding". It argues that health workers, including GPs, need to do more to recognise and diagnose postnatal depression early.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We take depression very seriously. That's why we're prioritising talking therapies - the treatment Nice recommends - and we're putting £400m into this treatment."