NHS England sets out plans to improve maternal mental health care

New plans have been announced to provide more support for pregnant women and new mums suffering mental illness.

Pregnancy news, 28/11/2016

NHS England has announced plans to invest £40 million into funding new and improved mental health services for pregnant women and new mums across 20 areas of the country.

The specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Services will aim to reach a further 30,000 women a year by 2021.

The funding will improve care by providing new or larger specialist community care teams.

Perinatal Community Mental Health Services explained

Perinatal Community Mental Health Services see and treat women who have been iden­tified as at high risk of developing serious illness both at home and in the maternity unit during pregnancy and after delivery as well as pre-conception counselling. 

What will the new funding pay for?

The new funding will pay for more perinatal consultants, specialist nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and nursery nurses as well as community peer support for mums, babies and families. So that mums with, or at risk of, severe mental health issues like postnatal depression will get the specialist support that they need.

The services will also provide specialist care for women with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis while pregnant or after giving birth birth. The services aim to respond quickly if mums become ill, and help minimise risks to mum and baby.

Specialist care might involve:

  • giving advice on medication;
  • providing lifestyle advice;
  • counselling support following an inpatient stay;
  • promoting hope and recovery. 

NHS England is also commissioning four new mother and baby units (MBUs.) 

Tommy’s Chief Executive Jane Brewin commented:

‘Depression and mental health problems, such as anxiety, affect up to 20% of all pregnant women. Left untreated, these conditions can have lasting effects on the emotional and physical health of both mother and baby. Greater funding for maternal mental health services is absolutely essential to improve outcomes for both mum and baby.

Diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems is less likely to happen during pregnancy than any other time.

Without understanding, support, and treatment these mental illnesses have a devastating impact on the women affected and on their partners and families. But with treatment, women do get better. However, currently the resources and services that do exist in this area are typically provided by mental health charities. They tend to reach women with an existing mental illness diagnosis or those identified by midwives as having potential problems. Overall, there is very little that works in a preventative way, or is aimed at women at the less severe end of the spectrum of mental and emotional wellbeing.

As a part of our commitment to improving the health of mothers and babies, Tommy's provides information for pregnant women that aims to improve their health and that of their babies. In 2015, we extended this to include comprehensive information on mental health. As well as developing information, resources and case studies, we have integrated it and signposting to it from our general pregnancy information so that women who have no previous experience of mental health problems are not excluded. We have put mental health on parity with physical health.’

Tommy's midwife Sophie explains the impact this funding could have:

'We're so pleased to hear that pregnant women and new mums will soon have more care options and specialist support for their mental health needs.

Currently the specialist midwifery teams caring for women with complex mental health needs are small in numbers, and have large caseloads of women and babies to care for.

Mothers struggling with mental health issues really benefit from having one or two midwives, and this one to one support greatly improves their outcomes. Midwives love being able to provide tailor made care to women, and we really hope that more investment in this area will improve outcomes and overall quality of care.

Ensuring pregnant and postnatal mums with complex mental health needs have a speedy assessment and care plan in place will help them to feel well cared for, and in control of their healthcare.'

View our resources on mental health in pregnancy.

More on mental wellbeing in pregnancy

More pregnancy in the news

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