Maternal mental health checks

Review of the National Childbirth Trust Hidden Half report and GP consultation | Centre for Mental Health


Maternal mental health difficulties cause untold distress and suffering to women and their families, and cost the UK £8.1 billion each year. This report, commissioned by the NCT as part of their Hidden Half campaign, explores the implications of extending the current six-week health check for babies to include a consultation about the wellbeing of the mother.

We found that resourcing GPs to offer a ten-minute appointment about the mother’s health would cost around £27 million a year. But this could help to identify more women who are experiencing mental health difficulties after the birth of their child, and ensure that they receive timely, effective support.

The report concludes that an additional health check with GPs would provide an important opportunity to help women whose difficulties were missed during pregnancy. To make the most of their opportunity, GPs would also need training and advice on how to enquire about a new mother’s mental health.

Full report: Review of the National Childbirth Trust Hidden Half report and GP consultation

Mother’s attitude towards baby during pregnancy may have implications for child’s development

University of Cambridge | June 2018 | Mother’s attitude towards baby during pregnancy may have implications for child’s development

A meta-analysis which used data from 14 studies to explore if there was a relationship between the way parents think about their child during pregnancy and their behaviour towards them after birth.

The  research team from the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge considered parents’ attitudes and feelings about their unborn child analysing the qualitative data from previous studies which included interviews and questionnaires.


Studies included in the meta-analysis examined parents’ thoughts and feelings about their child during pregnancy through interviews and questionnaires, and researchers also reviewed their attitudes and emotions in the postnatal period.

If the parents to be demonstrated positive anticipation of their relationship with the child and viewed them as an individual the researchers determined them to have a ‘balanced’ representation of their child. By contrast parents considered to have a ‘distorted’ view for instance would have an idealised description of their child much narrower in scope.  In the studies included in this research, researchers had observed interactions and child observing their ‘sensitivity’ towards their child responding appropriately to the baby, for example recognising  their distress

After combining the results from all 14 studies, the team identified a modest association between positive thoughts and feelings about the infant during pregnancy and later interaction with the infant, but only in mothers.

“Studies have shown that parent-child interaction is crucial for a child’s development and learning, so we wanted to understand if there were prenatal signs that might predict a parent’s behaviour,” says Dr Sarah Foley, the study’s first author.

“Although we found a relationship between a mother’s attitude towards her baby during pregnancy and her later interactions, this link was only modest. This suggests it is likely to be a part of the jigsaw, rather than the whole story” (via University of Cambridge).
The study has now been published in the Development Review


Drawing on data gathered from 14 studies involving a total of 1862 mothers and fathers, this meta-analysis reviews the measures that are used to tap into thoughts and feelings about the unborn infant during pregnancy and examines links between these prenatal measures and parent-child interaction quality. Questionnaire scores for parental-fetal attachment and interview ratings of expectant parents’ representations of their infant showed modest but robust associations with observed parent-child interaction quality. Moderator analyses showed that these associations were significantly stronger for mothers than for fathers. Key lessons for future research include the need for greater consistency in study measures, sample diversity and the examination of associations with child outcomes.

Full reference:

Foley, S and Hughes, C. | Great expectations? Do mothers’ and fathers’ prenatal thoughts and feelings about the infant predict parent-infant interaction quality? |A meta-analytic review| Developmental Review| June 2018 | DOI: 10.1016/j.dr.2018.03.007

Rotherham NHS staff can request the article here 


Simple bacteria test could halve number of premature births

Tommy’s | June 2018 | New bacteria test could half premature birth rate

Scientists have developed a new test to identify harmful bacteria which they say might prevent up to half of premature births; the test identifies if  women carry a harmful bacteria in their reproductive tract. The researchers from Genesis Research Trust
have indicated that the test could be used to 
identify the risk at routine check-ups, helping ensure early intervention.  The team are now trialing the use of supplements to replace these dangerous microbes with “good bacteria” (via Tommy’s). 


Further information is at Tommy’s 

In the media:

The Telegraph Half of premature births could be avoided with simple bacteria test

Noninvasive blood tests for fetal development predict gestational age and preterm delivery

Ngo,  Thuy, T. M. et al | Noninvasive blood tests for fetal development predict gestational age and preterm delivery | Science : 1133-1136 |Vol. 360,  6393| pp. 1133-1136 | DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3819

A non-invasive blood test has been developed that can predict the baby’s gestational age. The test, which comprises two blood tests is as accurate as ultrasound, according to the researchers who developed it.  The first blood test is able to estimate the baby’s age and delivery date. The second test was able to identify women at risk of delivering prematurely. Now the tests will be assessed through blinded, clinical trials.

The research has  been published in the journal Science 


Noninvasive blood tests that provide information about fetal development and gestational age could potentially improve prenatal care. Ultrasound, the current gold standard, is not always affordable in low-resource settings and does not predict spontaneous preterm birth, a leading cause of infant death. In a pilot study of 31 healthy pregnant women, we found that measurement of nine cell-free RNA (cfRNA) transcripts in maternal blood predicted gestational age with comparable accuracy to ultrasound but at substantially lower cost. In a related study of 38 women (23 full-term and 15 preterm deliveries), all at elevated risk of delivering preterm, we identified seven cfRNA transcripts that accurately classified women who delivered preterm up to 2 months in advance of labor. These tests hold promise for prenatal care in both the developed and developing worlds, although they require validation in larger, blinded clinical trials

The full article can be downloaded from Science

In the media:

BBC News Premature birth test being trialled

Finding the words campaigned launched to help everyone talk about baby loss

They are urging employers to get in touch for advice on supporting bereaved parents as a survey published today (1 June) reveals many are let down by their employer if they want to return to work after the death of their baby.

Almost all parents who responded to Sands survey (95%) had shared the happy news of their pregnancy with colleagues, but after returning to work two in five said no one talked to them about their loss (Sands).

Sands have produced an infographic of the results of their survey, it can be viewed here 

Further information about the campaign can be found here 

In the media:
BBC News Bereaved parents ‘let down at work by lack of support’

Newborn hearing screening programme (NHSP) operational guidance

This guidance supports healthcare professionals and stakeholders delivering and managing newborn hearing screening programmes in England | Public Health England

This recently updated NHSP operational guidance provides clinical guidance and other documents to support the delivery of a high-quality screening programme.

This guidance is relevant to all screening programme staff and healthcare professionals involved at any point in the NHSP screening pathway.

This information puts into context the day-to-day working of the local screening programme and includes information about:

  • introductions and key contacts
  • roles, responsibilities and relationships of key NHSP staff and associated professionals
  • initial training and continued professional development including competencies for hearing screening staff
  • governance and performance responsibilities including programme standards, key performance indicators, and managing risks and incidents
  • aetiology input to NHSP and beyond
  • hearing screening equipment specifications and protocols
  • audiology input to NHSP and beyond
  • day to day management of a local NHSP patient pathway
  • the NHSP national IT system
  • reporting local programme performance

Full guidance available at Public Health England

New impact report on maternity care

The Royal College of Medicines| New impact report on maternity care

NICE has published a new report that  explores how its evidence-based guidance contributes to improvements.
The reports are based on data from national audits, reports, survey and indicator frameworks that show the uptake of NICE guidance and quality statement measures (via Royal College of Midwives).

Image source:

You can download the full report from NICE