A recent survey, conducted by Healthwatch England, of 1,738 women who had been affected by perinatal mental health problems highlights inconsistencies in support during pregnancy and after having a baby, despite national NICE guidelines.
In their most recent report ‘Mental health and the journey to parenthood’, Healthwatch outline their findings.
Although it was encouraging that many mums reported a good experience of care, with timely access to specialist perinatal mental health services and proactive steps being taken to identify problems, Healthwatch also found that:
- A third of women (33%) who had a diagnosed mental health condition said they were not given any advice about maternity and mental health at any point.
- Nearly half (47%) of all women described getting support for their mental health as ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.
- Over a third of women (36%) rated the quality of mental health support given by health professionals (e.g. GPs, midwives and health visitors) as poor or very poor.
- More than half of all women (58%) said they did not get a care plan that considered their maternity and mental health needs.
- Over a third (36%) reported not feeling involved in decisions about their care.
“I didn’t recognise I was ill, I just thought I had failed, that the boys deserved a better mother, and I thought everything would be better once I was physically well. I was so ashamed to talk about how I was feeling, because we’re told how lucky we are to have a baby.” – Kirsty, mum and expert by experience
The report calls for more to be done to ensure that services across the care pathway understand and adhere to NHS guidelines to give parents more consistent care. Healthwatch ask that professionals make more space to talk about mental health and check on the wellbeing of women during and after pregnancy.
Specific recommendations include more clinical training, greater involvement of experts by experience, workforce and peer support improvements, and better postnatal checks, among others.
Response from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance
“Capturing the voice of people impacted by perinatal mental health is an essential component to influencing service improvements. Healthcare professionals across the pathway must know who and when to make a referral and women must be supported to confide safely and be able to access the right care.
“This report adds further evidence to the vital need for perinatal mental health services to be available for all women and their families wherever they live; policymakers and perinatal mental health providers must take action to ensure there is no postcode lottery.” – Maria Bavetta, Champion Network Manager
Visit the Healthwatch England website to find out more about the survey results, read their recommendations and see more testimony from parents with lived experience.