More to be done for maternal mental health

By Julie Griffiths on 19 April 2018 Maternal Mental health Perinatal Mental Health

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) has published new maps showing that pregnant women and new mothers in a quarter of the UK still cannot access lifesaving specialist perinatal mental health services which meet national guidelines.

According to the new data, pregnant women and new mums in 24% of the UK still have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services (coloured red on the map).

Since the last campaign maps in 2015, there have been improvements in services available to women and their babies.

However, while the maps show that more women now live in an area coloured green on the map, meaning specialist perinatal mental health services are available in their locality, many women and their families still cannot access essential care.

The maps show that in England 51% of areas are green (106 areas), which leaves nearly half of areas lacking those services.

RCM CEO Gill Walton said: ‘There have been improvements and we are making progress but there is still much, much more to be done. If half of England is getting the services needed this means half is not and it needs to change.

‘This is so important because if women do not get the services they need, the consequences can be fatal.

‘Our own report on maternal mental health published last summer* highlighted the need for better services. The report was based on the comments of women, and what their needs were. Every trust with maternity services should have a specialist midwife in post to enable women who are unwell to get the very best care and support they need.

‘These updated maps highlight again that our services are still a postcode lottery and not as good as they should be. We need to see our governments and our NHS providing the very best perinatal mental health services for all women across the UK irrespective of where they live.’

The MMHA maps show that in Wales just 28% of areas are green.

RCM director for Wales Helen Rogers said: ‘While the latest maps indicate Wales is doing better than other areas in the UK, such as Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is much more that needs to be done.

‘In October 2017 the children’s, young people and education committee in Wales published a report on perinatal mental health and some of the key recommendations were based on evidence provided by the RCM.

‘While progress is being made, our concerns do remain on the absence of a mother and baby unit in Wales, which is vital for families and means women are not separated from their babies. These units are even more important for single mothers facing mental health problems alone with little or no support for family members.

‘The RCM will also continue to advocate for a specialist perinatal mental health midwife to be placed in each health board with maternity services, as this is something instrumental to identifying pregnant women who need care and support. It will also allow those mothers to be cared for within a community setting or at a hospital close to their home which will enable them to be supported by their families too.’

The MMHA UK, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales maps can be seen here.

*Read the RCM report Every mother must get the help they need.

Photo credit: MMHA Everybody's Business Campaign