PregnancyToday (Friday August 19) NHS England has launched a new programme that aims to help an extra 30,000 expectant mothers who experience perinatal mental health problems by 2021.

It is hoped the additional £5 million Perinatal Mental Health Community Services Development Fund will improve the availability of high-quality care for women experiencing severe mental health problems.

Currently in England only 15% of areas provide specialist maternal mental health services to the level recommended in national guidelines and over 40% provide no services at all.

The £365 million commitment by NHS England to provide specialist perinatal mental health services over the next five years means that, by 2021, 30,000 women each year will be able to access the correct care and treatment.

Commenting, Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The RCM is pleased to see NHS England delivering on its commitment to improve the provision of services for women experiencing perinatal mental health problems. The current level of service and care, not only in England but across the UK, is unacceptable.

“The RCM believes that every Trust with maternity services should have a specialist maternal mental health midwife in post to work with community specialist teams to implement appropriate care pathways for women with pregnancy-related mental health problems. Perinatal mental illness exerts a significant toll on families and the impact on the women themselves, their baby, and the wider society cannot be underestimated.

“We know that suicide is a leading cause of death during pregnancy and in new mothers in the UK, and up to 20% of women are affected by mental health problems at some point in pregnancy or the postnatal period (within the first year after birth).

“Midwives play a central role in promoting the emotional wellbeing of women and their babies and in ensuring that all women with mental health concerns get appropriate and timely care. The RCM believes that all health professionals should give equal importance to women’s mental and physical health, throughout pregnancy and after the birth.”