Having a baby should be joyful but it’s not uncommon for women to suffer worry and distress affecting the health of both mum and baby.
One in five women will experience a range of mental health problems during pregnancy and in the year after birth, including anxiety, depression and postnatal psychotic disorders.
These are collectively called perinatal mental illnesses.
So it’s great to learn new and expectant mums in Cheshire and Merseyside will be able to continue to access specialist perinatal mental health services thanks to an NHS funding boost.
The service was launched in late 2017 through collaborative working led by the mental health programme of the Cheshire & Merseyside Health & Care Partnership.
It is delivered by three local mental health trusts – Chester -based Cheshire and Wirral Partnership (CWP) NHS Foundation Trust, North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
Sheena Cumiskey, chief executive of CWP and senior responsible officer for the mental health programme across the region, said: “Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why we are absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.
“The additional funding, which we have successfully bid for, will allow us to continue to deliver and build on this incredibly vital service for women across Cheshire and Merseyside.”
Specialist community perinatal mental health teams can offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.
Teams can be 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 their individual needs.
Rooted in strong partnership and collaborative working, the service is delivered across the Cheshire and Merseyside footprint. The specialist service became fully operational in November 2017, and to date has seen an additional 747 women, who would otherwise have had no service dedicated to their needs.
Dr Kieran Murphy, medical director, NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside), said: “As a GP, I have seen first-hand the affects that mental ill health can have on individuals and their families. Having a baby should be joyful and full of excitement, but all too often it can be a time of worry and distress that can have a detrimental effect of both mum and baby’s health.
“The innovative service delivered across Cheshire and Merseyside is having an immediate impact in our communities. This top quality service has led directly to life-saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering.”
As well as being crucial to new mothers, newborns and their families, perinatal services – alongside other treatments for common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety – can play an important role in ensuring mental health is integrated into overall healthcare at the earliest possible stage of life.