NHS Confederation calls to prioritise new mothers' mental health

The MHN's research shows how perinatal and maternal illness affects women across a range of social groups, finding that: around one in ten women experience mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year of birth; the risk of depression is twice as high among teenage mothers, and rates of perinatal depression are higher among women who are experiencing poverty or social exclusion; there is a 50 per cent chance of severe depression and postpartum psychosis recurring in a subsequent pregnancy; and that over half of women who committed suicide during pregnancy or shortly after birth were white, married, employed, living in ‘comfortable’ circumstances and aged 30 or older.

The briefing, which is being launched at the NHS Confederation's annual conference, calls for health professionals including midwives, GPs, health visitors and nurses to have increased access to training opportunities in this area.

It also calls on NHS England to improve equity of access to specialist perinatal care. Research by the NSPCC shows that at present, there are large parts of England which have no local or regional access to specialist perinatal mental health services, or mother-and-baby mental health beds.

MHN chief executive Stephen Dalton said: “Ensuring our children get a good start in life is an ambition any civilised community supports. But too many of our many children are denied this basic right because – sometimes before they're even born – lack of expert resources can leave clinically unwell mothers and children stranded. Nationally, there are great services being delivered by dedicated staff, and we acknowledge their efforts. The saddening fact is that there are not nearly enough services to go round.

“This is why we hope that the MHN's upcoming briefing on perinatal and maternal mental health, which will be launched this Wednesday 5 June at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in Liverpool, will trigger positive action to ensure children are a priority for all organisations to work towards.”

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