A network of new hubs will be introduced across the country to support new, expectant or bereaved mothers, NHS England has announced.
The 26 new hubs will bring together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapy under one roof as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Around 6,000 women will be able to receive a wide range of mental health services including care and treatment for a severe fear of childbirth to support for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following a difficult birth.
NHS England 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,” he added.
Last month, Centre for Mental Health and Maternal Mental Health Alliance published a report warning that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed mental health challenges for women during pregnancy and early motherhood.
The report highlighted a decrease in the mental health of women during the perinatal period for a variety of reasons including an increase in anxiety due to fear of infection, and experience of infection and bereavements, combined with reduction in available support. There was also a reported increase in domestic violence.
However, also last month the government outlined a vision for best practice across the health system to ensure babies and children can get the best possible start, following an early years’ review by Early Years Health Adviser Andrea Leadsom MP.
The clinics will provide training for maternity staff and midwives as well as offering psychological therapies for new and expectant mums.
Ten sites will be up and running within months with the remainder opening by April 2022. Every area will have a hub by April 2024 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to increase access to psychological support for women before, during and after pregnancy.
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,” she concluded.