More needs to be done to ensure London’s new mothers are provided with a joined up approach to mental health care during the perinatal period, says the Cavendish Square Group of NHS Trusts.
This was highlighted in the BBC’s “My Baby, Psychosis & Me” documentary (on air 16 February). The documentarytook an intimate look at the lives of women who have been affected by postpartum psychosis, a severe form of mental illness that has risen up the public agenda following a high-profile storyline involving EastEnders’ Stacey Slater.
A new mother who previously suffered with bi-polar disorder, Stacey went on to develop postpartum psychosis in a plot line that has added new impetus to the debate around perinatal mental health as her family now push to secure her a specialist mother and baby bed.
“Not only has the Stacey storyline succeeded in shedding light on one of the most serious forms of perinatal mental ill-health, it has also raised awareness of the range of mental health conditions experienced by mothers generally,” says Dr Ben Nereli, consultant perinatal psychologist and spokesperson for the Cavendish Square Group.
“Postpartum psychosis is rare – it effects fewer than 300 new mothers in London each year – however other forms of mental ill health will effect in excess of 20,000 London mothers each year. Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 5 mothers may experience mental illness during the perinatal period.
“At their most severe - and if left undiagnosed or untreated - perinatal mental illnesses are a leading cause of maternal death. Even in less severe cases, if mothers can’t get the right support it can lead to negative effects on their wellbeing, relationships and the development of their child.
“Health and social care professionals need to work together to make sure that opportunities to support London’s ‘real Staceys’ are not missed.”
To deliver the best outcomes in perinatal care, the Cavendish Square Group is advocating closer working between health and social care pathways and delivering a more consistent standard of services through:
• investing in psychologically-aware community midwifery (26.7% of third year student midwives said they weren’t confident they had the theoretical knowledge to recognise mental health issues in the women for whom they care. Source: Royal College of Midwives)
• ensuring GPs and family nursing services e.g. health visitors are well-informed about what to look for in mothers and how to access perinatal-specific psychological therapy services
• embedding specialist perinatal mental health teams within maternity services
• working to make new mothers more comfortable talking about their mental health throughout pregnancy and beyond.
“The economic case for investing in effective perinatal mental health care and support is clear. The average cost of depression after a woman has given birth equates to £74,000 but effective and evidence-based interventions – if properly funded – are available,” continued Dr Nereli.
"While a £290million investment was promised for perinatal services by the Prime Minister last month, front line services are still waiting for access to the additional funds they need to support an increasing number of pregnant women."
London’s perinatal mental health – in numbers
- London has the highest birth rate in England (live births per 1000 women aged 15 to 44, Source: ONS, 2011)
- Fewer than 300 new mothers experience postpartum psychosis each year
- Around 4,000 new mothers experience severe depressive illness
- As many as 20,000 new mothers will experience mild-to-moderate depression or anxiety
- Suicide is a leading cause of maternal mortality
- London is home to 33 of England’s 115 mother and baby beds