The economic case for increasing access to treatment for women with common maternal mental health problems


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The argument for increasing access to maternal mental healthcare

Research published in 2014 showed undiagnosed and untreated maternal mental health problems cause avoidable suffering for women, babies and families and have an economic cost to wider society of £8.1 billion per year.

Positively, since that research was released, all four nations have invested in specialist perinatal mental health (PMH) services to some extent. These services are helping change the lives of women with the most severe and complex maternal mental health problems and their families.

However, there are still many gaps within the wider system, including within health visiting and maternity services. As a result, many women with common maternal mental health problems, who do not need specialist PMH services, cannot access evidence-based treatment when and where they need it.

This new model can help address one of the gaps in services.

Getting it right for all women: addressing inequalities

For any proposed model to be effective, it will be vital that it addresses existing inequalities in women’s experiences of maternity and mental health care.

Research commissioned by the MMHA (‘Maternal mental health during a pandemic’, 2021) identified that PMH needs increased across the board during the pandemic. However, the impact has not been equal, with women and families of colour and poorer families being amongst the most adversely affected.

MBRRACE-UK’s report ‘Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care‘ (2021) found that maternal mortality is more than four times higher for Black women, two times higher for mixed ethnicity women and almost twice as high for Asian women compared with white women.

It is vital therefore that integrated service provision, as modelled in LSE’s economic report, proactively seeks to meet the needs of ALL women, including those who are less well-served by current arrangements.

Making all care count

This report focuses on health visiting, maternity and mental health practitioners, whilst also acknowledging the vital role of other professionals, including GPs and the voluntary sector. The MMHA’s ‘Make all care count’ campaign calls for ALL women and families across the UK to have equitable access to comprehensive, high-quality maternal mental healthcare.

This includes ensuring the 8 essential services highlighted in our campaign are commissioned, funded and properly resourced so they can deliver the comprehensive PMH care women, babies and families need.

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