Perinatal mental health has an increased prominence in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) new proposed standards for ‘the next generation of midwives’.
The NMC hopes its new standards will help ensure midwives have the right knowledge and skills to identify a woman’s mental health needs as early as possible, with perinatal mental health problems affecting up to 20% of women.
Priorities outlined in the standards also include care for women and newborn infants with complications, covering a a midwife’s role in first-line emergency management until other help is available.
The standards emphasise continuity of care, requiring midwives to provide ongoing midwifery care across all healthcare settings alongside other professionals while acting as an advocate for mother and baby.
The increased focus on public health in the standards aims to help midwives support women through areas such as smoking, reproductive health and infant feeding.
The proposed standards are up for approval by the NMC governing council on 3 October this year and would go into effect from 31 January 2020 for the next ten years.
Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, chief executive and registrar of the NMC, said that ‘much has changed in health and social care’ since the current midwifery standards were published in 2009.
She continued: ‘Through our new standards, which I hope the Council will approve next week, we’re ensuring midwives of the future know what is expected of them for the benefit of women, babies and their families who depend on experiencing the best and safest person-centred care possible.’
Standards development lead Professor Mary Renfrew, who is also professor of mother and infant health at the University of Dundee, said that the standards are a ‘fundamental step in ensuring maternity care here remains among the best and safest in the world.’
She continued: ‘These standards will be in place for the next ten years and new challenges – new diseases, new technologies, changing social contexts – will certainly emerge. The standards will ensure midwives have the knowledge and flexibility to be able to adapt to whatever the future brings.’