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Services for perinatal mental health problems are now available across all of London

28th February 2019

Expectant and new mums across London set to benefit by £6m extra investment in mental health care

Becoming a mum can be one of the most exciting and daunting experiences in a women’s life. The time between conceiving a baby until the baby’s first birthday, known as the perinatal period, is one often filled with joy, excitement but sometimes many unexpected challenges.

More than one in ten women in London develop a mental illness during this time and if untreated, can have a devastating impact on women and their families.

In recognition of this, the NHS in London has invested an extra £6m into specialist mental health services to support women during pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth. These services help women access the right care to ensure they and their babies get a healthy start in their new life together.

From March 2019, services for perinatal mental health problems will be available across all of London. These include services for assessment, care and treatment for women who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or up to 12 months after birth. It has been made possible through this £6m extra investment.

London map of perinatal services

The changes in coverage of perinatal specialist mental health services for London since 2014 (provided by The Maternal Mental Health Alliance)

The additional funding has been phased into community perinatal services during the previous three years. The extra resource has resulted in 79 new whole time equivalent clinicians for London during this financial year and this important specialist care is now offered to nearly 5,300 women a year.

Teams supporting women are made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nursery nurses and administrative staff, who all work together to provide a comprehensive service to mums, depending on what their individual needs are.

Emma Fox, patient advocate and mum of two, said:

“Having been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder in my early 20s, I knew that having a family could pose some challenges for me. In 2013, I knew I was ready to start a family but support was hard to find.

“There were no standard services where I lived in London. A pilot program offered support during preconception and pregnancy, but I was on my own as soon as my baby was born.

“I struggled significantly after the birth of my first child, sent from GP to health visitor to midwife with no real care. The situation was so desperate, I even considered putting my child up for adoption – I could not cope. The hotch-potch care I received was not baby-friendly and simply was not good enough.

“My experience inspired to do something about this. In the year following, I worked with clinicians from different services and disciplines and other patients to design a service that would truly support women and their babies.

“When my second child was born in 2016, my experience was very different. I was provided with support through my pregnancy and a full 12 months after my daughter’s birth. I was able to really enjoy her first days and build a meaningful relationship with my daughter.”

Sarah Taha, Perinatal Psychiatrist and Chair of the London Perinatal Mental Health Network said:

“It is so important that women get the treatment and support they need as soon as possible. We know that if left untreated, mental illness can have significant and long-lasting impacts women and their families. Pregnancy and the post-partum period is an important time to treat mental health problems so it is fantastic news that no matter where a woman lives in London, she now has access to the high quality, specialist community care.”

For further information on local perinatal mental health services available across London, download our Mental Health Transformation Programme information sheet.

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