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Maternal Mental Health Matters

Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week is raising awareness of how and where mothers and their families can seek help and support for perinatal mental health problems. The event is backed by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA), with members including Young Minds, CYP Mental Health Coalition, NHS England, Mind, Barnados and Mental Health Foundation.

As many as one in five women develop mental ill health during pregnancy or within the first year of giving birth – known as the ‘perinatal’ period. Women with a history of mental health problems can be at significant risk of relapse during pregnancy. Mental health problems experienced by pregnant women and new mothers include anxiety, antenatal or postnatal depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorder, postpartum psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Around half of perinatal mental health problems are untreated or undetected and this can have a devastating impact on women and their families. Results of a survey of women by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) supported by the MMHA showed that only 7% of women who reported experiencing a maternal mental health condition were referred to specialist care, with great variation in access to care across the country. Women in around half of the UK have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services, see the MMHA’s map of specialist community perinatal mental health teams.

NHS England identified specialist perinatal mental health care as an area for improvement in access to care and quality of services in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The programme of activities currently underway include establishing new or expanded specialist community teams for perinatal mental health in 20 areas, as well as investment in workforce development to improve awareness and skills related to perinatal mental health.

Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week runs 1-7 May in the UK, and World Maternal Mental Health day is on 3 May. Follow the conversation on Twitter #maternalMHmatters.