The Government has announced almost a billion pounds of investment for mental health treatment including £230m for specialist support for mothers during and after pregnancy and the first ever waiting time targets for teenagers with eating disorders.
Professor Lesley Regan, Vice President of Strategic Development for the RCOG, said:
“We welcome the news that maternal mental health will be made a national priority. Currently around one quarter of all maternal deaths between six weeks and a year after childbirth are related to mental health problems and one in seven of the women who died in this period committed suicide. Despite these alarming figures, almost half of pregnant women and new mothers in the UK have no access to specialist maternal mental health services and only 3% of Clinical Commissioning Groups have a maternal mental health service strategy.
“It is crucial for all healthcare professionals to work together to ensure that women are cared for appropriately. More awareness and training for healthcare professionals around their roles in caring for women with mental illness is required and greater integration between primary and secondary care will ensure that women with significant medical and psychiatric conditions are assessed before becoming pregnant and referred to specialist care in a timely manner to ensure that right support is provided throughout a woman’s pregnancy and beyond.
“This pledge is fantastic opportunity to not only improve the care we provide but also end the taboo which continues to surround maternal mental health. As highlighted in the Chief Medical Officer for England’s latest annual report, the stigma attached to perinatal mental disorders may prevent women from seeking help, or they may be worried that mental illness is not compatible with being a good mother and that their baby will be taken away from them. Measures to address stigma and public awareness could also enable more women to access prompt treatment.”
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To mark this year’s International Women’s Day on 4 March 2016, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) will be hosting an event ‘Joining up care in maternal mental health’ where expert speakers will provide insights into the challenges experienced in providing effective, joined-up maternal mental healthcare and women who have suffered from maternal mental health problems will provide first-hand accounts of their experiences.