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Defining essential perinatal mental health (PMH) care: specialist PMH services

The MMHA’s ‘Make all care count’ campaign phase highlights and defines eight essential services that can play a crucial role in improving outcomes for women and families affected by perinatal mental health (PMH) problems.

Currently, access to comprehensive PMH care is not equal. Action is needed to ensure these essential services are commissioned, funded and resourced. The MMHA will release resources to identify gaps and the impact they could have on women, babies and families.

What is the role of specialist PMH services in providing essential PMH care?

    • For women with severe or complex mental health needs, specialist PMH services provide support and treatment.


    • Specialist PMH services are formed of community teams and Mother and Baby Units (MBUs).


    • MBUs are in-patient units that allow a mother and her baby, and sometimes other family members, to stay together when hospitalisation is required.


    • Specialist PMH services need to have the skills to treat and nurse seriously ill women at the same time as supporting the developing relationship between parent and baby. They understand the physical and emotional care needs of mothers during the perinatal period and the different treatments they may require.


    • Specialist PMH services advise women with existing mental health needs to help them make informed decisions about pregnancy, birth plans, postnatal care and psychosocial factors such as stress and depression. They also provide information and support to the partners of women under their care, as they may also experience mental health problems.



    • Specialist PMH services should provide clinical advice and guidance to other mental health, maternity, health visiting, primary care and social care professionals.

If you would like further information about specialist PMH services, please see:

  1. What are perinatal mental health services? (Royal College of Psychiatrists)
  2. Perinatal psychology provision in specialist perinatal community mental health services (BPS)
  3. Information on Mother and Baby Units (Royal College of Psychiatrists)
  4. Map of Specialist Community Perinatal Mental Health Teams in the UK (MMHA, 2020)
  5. Map of Mother and Baby Units in the UK (MMHA, 2021)

If you are aware of any resources it would be useful to add, please email


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