New moth­ers to re­ceive coun­selling over Skype

£23m scheme to tackle post-natal de­pres­sion and other men­tal health is­sues an­nounced by the NHS

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Laura Don­nelly HEALTH ED­I­TOR

NEW moth­ers will be of­fered coun­selling by Skype un­der NHS plans to tackle post-natal de­pres­sion.

An es­ti­mated 140,000 moth­ers each year – one in five – suf­fer de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and other is­sues dur­ing preg­nancy or in the months af­ter giv­ing birth. Thou­sands do not get sup­port, with sui­cide the lead­ing cause of death in ex­pec­tant and new moth­ers.

Un­der the plans, NHS ser­vices will be ex­pected to of­fer care face to face, as well as of­fer­ing ther­apy via Skype and on­line con­sul­ta­tions to moth­ers via smart­phones or com­put­ers.

Last year a re­port from the Royal Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists found that 81 per cent of women said they had ex­pe­ri­enced at least one episode of men­tal health prob­lems dur­ing or af­ter preg­nancy. But just 19 per cent were re­ferred for any form of help, with only 7 per cent sent to a spe­cial­ist.

A na­tional au­dit of ma­ter­nity care in 2016 found that 43 per cent of ar­eas pro­vide no spe­cialised men­tal health ser­vice. To­day, health of­fi­cials an­nounced a £23mil­lion plan to boost such ser­vices with 200 more health pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing psy­chol­o­gists, ther­a­pists and nurs­ery nurses of­fered help in 20 parts of the coun­try.

The schemes, of­fered to at least 3,000 preg­nant women and those who have re­cently given birth, are part of a £365mil­lion na­tional plan to give sup­port to 30,000 women by 2021.

Un­der the projects, NHS bod­ies will be ex­pected to open “com­mu­nity hubs” for new moth­ers, of­fer­ing them ad­vice, re­fer­rals to spe­cial­ists, links to other care agen­cies and groups for new par­ents. A num­ber of fig­ures have spo­ken about men­tal health in moth­er­hood, with the Duchess of Cam­bridge say­ing she had some­times felt “lonely” and “iso­lated” as a new mother.

Claire Mur­doch, the di­rec­tor of men­tal health for NHS Eng­land, said: “With so many new mums hav­ing the joy of moth­er­hood in­ter­rupted by men­tal ill health, im­prov­ing care, in­vest­ment and fo­cus on this is­sue, is cru­cial.

“Fall­ing preg­nant and be­com­ing a mum is a hugely emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence, so hav­ing ex­pert sup­port avail­able, in­clud­ing work­ing with peo­ple’s part­ners as well as their wider fam­ily and so­cial net­works, to help man­age the up­heaval, means that women who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing men­tal health is­sues don’t have to suf­fer and strug­gle alone.”

The new fund­ing fol­lows a £40mil­lion in­vest­ment since 2016, aim­ing to bring help to more than 6,000 new moth­ers, pro­vid­ing ac­cess to spe­cial­ist men­tal health care by April 2018.

The plans will see the open­ing of four new mother-and-baby units. Last week, the Na­tional Child­birth Trust called for im­prove­ments in post-natal care, af­ter a na­tional sur­vey by the Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion found that 72 per cent of new moth­ers did not see the same mid­wife af­ter leav­ing hos­pi­tal.

The sur­vey found 23 per cent said their mid­wife did not ap­pear to be aware of their med­i­cal his­tory, or that of their baby. Fewer than six in 10 moth­ers said they were “def­i­nitely” given enough in­for­ma­tion about emo­tional changes they might ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter birth.

Jus­tine Roberts, the founder of Mum­snet, said: “The peri­na­tal pe­riod can be stress­ful and de­mand­ing, and women who are af­fected de­serve prompt and com­pas­sion­ate pro­fes­sional care.

“We aksed Mum­snet users ... about [their] post-natal care. They told us that men­tal health ser­vices needed more re­sources and a greater fo­cus.”

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