New maternal mental health programme launched

Sites across the South East have been successful in securing £1,534,000 of funding for a new maternal health service.

Care provided by specialist perinatal mental health services will be available from preconception to 24 months after birth with the new services being available in the majority of the region from next year.

One in four women experience mental health problems in pregnancy
and during the 24 months after giving birth. The consequences of not accessing high quality perinatal mental health care are estimated to cost the NHS and social care
£1.2 billion per year.

For the first time, there will be specific mental health therapies available for women with moderate, severe or complex mental health difficulties associated with loss and trauma directly arising from, or related to, their maternity experience.

Five years ago, 40% of the country had no access to specialist perinatal mental healthcare. Now, there are specialist community perinatal mental health services in every one of the 44 local NHS areas and over 700 hundred specialist frontline staff have been recruited, with further investment and development planned.

Maternal Mental Health Services are for women with moderate-severe or complex mental health difficulties associated with loss and trauma directly arising from, or related to, the maternity experience. This may include those who experience PTSD following birth trauma and have experienced perinatal loss, or those with a severe fear of childbirth (tokophobia).

Jenny Hughes, Regional Chief Midwife for NHS England and NHS Improvement’s South East region said: “This is a fantastic step forward for maternal services in the region. We know that pregnancy and post birth can be difficult for some women and these new services will have a positive impact across the South East.”

These services are intended to provide targeted care and support to women whose needs would not be well met in other services. For example, women experiencing moderate, severe or complex mental health difficulties following perinatal loss who would not currently be seen by perinatal mental health services.

By 2023/24, at least 66,000 women with moderate severe/complex perinatal mental health difficulties will have access to specialist community care from pre-conception to 24 months.