Around 6,000 new, expectant or bereaved mothers will receive help and support for their mental health through dozens of new dedicated Maternal Mental Health hubs, which are being set up across the country.
The 26 new hubs will bring together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapy under one roof as part of the commitment to improving access to perinatal mental health support in the NHS Long Term Plan.
Before, during and after pregnancy, women will receive care and treatment for a wide range of mental health issues from birth trauma related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to others like tokophobia (fear of childbirth).
NHS England (NHSE) chief executive Simon Stevens said:
“The pregnancy and the birth of a new child are a special time for families but if things go wrong it can have a huge impact on women, their partners and even other children.
“That is why the NHS is developing maternal mental health services to help them get back on track as part of our Long Term Plan.
“NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to deal with more than 393,000 patients requiring hospital treatment for Covid-19 but we have also kept mental health services running and I am delighted that, we are now expanding help for new, expectant and bereaved mums despite the continuing pandemic.”
Initially, NHSE will focus on 10 pilot sites, which should be up and running over the next few months in:
- Birmingham & Solihull
- Shropshire Telford & Wrekin
- South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
- Lancashire and South Cumbria
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight
- Kent and Medway
The remaining 16 hubs are planned to open by April 2022, and NHSE have indicated that every area will have one by April 2024. This forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan to increase access to psychological support for women prior to conception and throughout the perinatal period.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said:
“Every woman has a unique experience with pregnancy and motherhood and some will need extra support to cope with mental health issues that can range from anxiety to severe depression so I am delighted that mothers across all areas of the country will be able to access this help if they need it.
“The NHS is here for everyone who needs help and the expansion of specialist care through the roll out of these maternal mental health services will strengthen the services already in place, enabling us to improve the quality of care and outcomes for many women.
“I would encourage any mum who needs this support to come forward safe in the knowledge that her mental health and well-being are of paramount importance and she should not feel ashamed of accessing the help she needs.”
It is estimated that it costs the NHS and social care sector billions per year if women do not access high-quality perinatal mental health services.
Five years ago, 40% of the country had no access to specialist perinatal mental health care. According to NHSE, specialist community perinatal mental health services are now available in each of the 44 local NHS areas, enabling over 30,000 women to receive support in 2019/20.
Thousands more are expected to receive care as part of the Maternal Mental Health pilot sites by the end of 2021/22. The work undertaken by these hubs will be vital to efforts to further scale up these services across the country.
Dr Giles Berrisford, NHS England’s national speciality advisor for perinatal mental health, said:
“We know around one in four women experiences mental health problems in pregnancy and during the 24 months after giving birth, and these maternal mental health services will provide vital support, meeting the specific needs of these women.
“Their establishment will significantly contribute to the overall commitment of the NHS to enable at least 66,000 women with moderate to severe mental health difficulties related motherhood to access specialist care by 2023/24.” Read more from Dr Berrisford and England’s Chief Midwifery Officer, Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent
As well as offering psychological therapies for new and expectant mums, the clinics will also provide training for maternity staff and midwives.
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s (MMHA) response
“The MMHA welcomes this positive step towards achieving ambitions for perinatal mental health laid out in the Long-Term Plan.
“For the more than 1 in 10 expectant and new mothers experiencing mental health problems, and the increased numbers as a result of the pandemic, there needs to be a system of care available to support them. These new services will enable more women than ever to access vital perinatal mental health care.
“The MMHA is keen to see training for all staff who interact with women and their families in the perinatal period, so we also welcome the role these services will play in upskilling the maternity workforce, alongside providing much-needed support.”
Emily Slater, CEO of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance
For further comment from the MMHA, see: