New mothers to receive counselling over Skype
£23m scheme to tackle post-natal depression and other mental health issues announced by the NHS
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.”