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17.06.13

Mental health service ‘deficit’ for mothers

There is a postcode lottery of mental health services for pregnant women and new mothers, the NSPCC has warned.

Mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia can begin or escalate during pregnancy or the babies’ first year, damaging family life and even impacting on babies’ health and welfare.

The NSPCC report celebrates some excellent services around the country, but warns that in others commissioners are not focusing on the mental health needs of expectant or new mothers.

Less than half of mental health trusts have specialist services, and access to Mother and Baby Units is variable. Perinatal mental illness affects at least 10% of women, but the majority of problems are preventable and treatable.

The NSPCC calls for mothers’ physical and mental health to be afforded the same importance.

Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “It is shocking that less than half of mental health trusts have specialist mental health services for expectant and new mums, a deficit that has been ignored for too long.

“We know that mental health problems in new parents can impact negatively on the child’s emotional wellbeing and we hope that this report, together with our work as part of the Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, will bring about positive change to make mental health services accessible for all pregnant and new mums.

“If we ignore the mental health of young mothers, many of whom are hardly out of childhood themselves, we are significantly increasing the risk of them, and their babies, developing serious emotional health problems both at the time and later in their lives.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, added: “There is a real and pressing need to detect and improve the care for pregnant women with mental health problems, throughout their pregnancy and after the birth in particular.”

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