The NHS has confirmed that extra funding will be made available to improve the mental health of at least 3,000 pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.
The £23m funding is part of a major national programme of improvement and investment by NHS England which will see a total of 30,000 additional women across the country getting specialist mental health care, in person and through online consultations including over Skype, during the early stages of motherhood, supported by a total of £365m, by 2021.
Perinatal mental ill health affects up to 20 per cent of women during pregnancy and in their first year after giving birth. As well as being crucial to new mothers, new-borns and their families, perinatal services, alongside other treatments for common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, can play an important role in ensuring mental health is integrated into overall healthcare at the earliest possible stage of life.
Perinatal mental health – wellbeing related to pregnancy and the first year of motherhood – has become an increasingly prominent issue in recent years, with high-profile figures including the Duchess of Cambridge speaking out about its impact.
The new funding for community perinatal services follows additional spending since 2016 of £40m, which will see over 6,000 new mums receiving specialist mental health care by April 2018. The development of community services is part of an overall package of increasing access to perinatal care, which includes four new mother and baby units and the recruitment of over 200 specialist staff, including 21 consultant psychiatrists and more than 100 nurses and therapists.
Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England, said:
“With so many new mums having the joy of motherhood interrupted by mental ill health, improving care, investment and focus on this issue, is crucial.
“Falling pregnant and becoming a mum is a hugely emotional experience, so having expert support available, including working with people’s partners as well as their wider family and social networks, to help manage the upheaval, means that women who are experiencing mental health issues don’t have to suffer and struggle alone.
“Improving community access to mental health care is the cornerstone of NHS plans to improve services, and the £60m investment in perinatal mental health will mean women and their families get targeted, specialised support at one of the most important periods of life.”