Increase in new mums seeking mental health support in Lancashire
Charities say pandemic behind more women getting help
More new or expectant mothers were in contact with Preston’s mental health services in January than before the pandemic.
Charity the National Childbirth Trust says the impact of Covid-19 has left many mothers across England struggling, and has called for them to have more support.
NHS Digital data reveals there were around 85 open referrals to a perinatal mental health team in the NHS Greater Preston CCG area at the end of January.
That was up from 45 a year earlier, and more than the 75 recorded at the end of December.
A woman can have more than one referral into services at a given time.
Perinatal mental health problems are those which affect women during pregnancy or in the first year after their child is born.
According to the NHS, perinatal mental illness affects up to one in five new and expectant mothers and covers a range of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Across England, there were 19,600 open referrals at the end of January – up from 17,600 a year earlier and more than at the end of any month in 2020.
“We’ve heard throughout the pandemic from mums struggling with the impact on their emotional wellbeing,” said Sarah McMullen, director of impact and engagement at the National Childbirth Trust.
Anxiety about the virus, reduced services, restrictions on partners attending appointments and less informal support from friends and family have made it “a very challenging and isolating time”, she said, adding: “We don’t think that new mothers are getting enough support.”
Despite rising numbers of referrals, a recent survey carried out by the charity found around one in four new mothers are not being asked about their mental health at their six-week routine GP check-up, which it said is supposed to identify emotional problems.
The NCT said it wants GPs to be supported to provide dedicated time and space for the appointment, alongside investment in health visiting and maternity services.
The NHS recently announced it was planning 26 new “hubs” across the country to bring maternity services and psychological therapy under one roof.
It said 10 sites will be up and running within months, while the rest will open by April next year.
An NHS spokesman said: “We have already addressed what was a postcode lottery, by ensuring everywhere in the country has a specialist perinatal mental health service and as part of our Long Term Plan will continue to expand so that at least 66,000 women will be able to access specialist care every year by 2023-24.”
Minister for mental health and maternity safety Nadine Dorries said: “I am acutely aware of the challenges new and expectant mothers, and their families, have faced over the last year.
“Throughout the pandemic, mental health has remained a priority and services, including specialist perinatal mental health services which now exist in every area of England, have remained open, adapting to provide digital and remote support.”
The Government has given more than £10m in funding to mental health charities to support those affected, she added.