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Primary care physicians' perspectives on the identification and management of postnatal mental health problems.

Family Practice 2024 January 28
BACKGROUND: Postnatal mental health problems (PMHPs) are prevalent and negatively affect mothers, children, and society. International and local guidelines recommend that Singapore primary care physicians (PCP) screen, assess, and manage mothers with PMHPs. However, little is known about their experiences and views.

METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 14 PCPs in Singapore. Interview questions elicited perspectives on the identification and management of mothers with PMHPs. The interview guide was developed from a conceptual framework incorporating the knowledge-attitudes-practices, self-efficacy, and socio-ecological models. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis was used to identify emergent themes.

RESULTS: Singapore PCPs viewed themselves as key providers of first-contact care to mothers with PMHPs. They believed mothers preferred them to alternative providers because of greater accessibility and trust. In detection, they were vigilant in identifying at-risk mothers and favoured clinical intuition over screening tools. PCPs were confident in diagnosing common PMHPs and believed that mothers not meeting diagnostic criteria must be readily recognized and supported. In managing PMHPs, PCPs expressed varying confidence in prescribing antidepressants, which were viewed as second-line to supportive counselling and psychoeducation. Impeding physician factors, constraining practice characteristics and health system limitations were barriers. Looking forward, PCPs aspired to leverage technology and multidisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive, team-based care for the mother-child dyad.

CONCLUSION: Singapore PCPs are key in identifying and managing mothers with PMHPs. To fully harness their potential in providing comprehensive care, PCPs need greater multidisciplinary support and technological solutions that promote remote disclosure and enhanced preparation for their role.

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