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Shortfall in mental healthcare for expectant and new mothers, survey reveals

The Royal College of Midwives has called for increased investment in maternal mental health services in response to a survey of more than 2,300 mothers

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called for urgent investment in maternal health services in response to a survey which highlights failures in providing women with specialist care.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) maternal mental health survey found only 7% of women with mental health problems during or after pregnancy are referred to specialist care.

The survey of more than 2,300 women in the UK who had all given birth within the past five years, found many said they received inconsistent and conflicting advice from healthcare professionals.

Other findings included:

  • 81% of women who responded to the survey had experienced at least one episode of a mental health problem during or

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called for urgent investment in maternal health services in response to a survey which highlights failures in providing women with specialist care. 


The RCOG has highlighted several failures in mental health for mothers, during and after pregnancy
Picture: iStock

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) maternal mental health survey found only 7% of women with mental health problems during or after pregnancy are referred to specialist care.

The survey of more than 2,300 women in the UK who had all given birth within the past five years, found many said they received inconsistent and conflicting advice from healthcare professionals. 

Other findings included: 

  • 81% of women who responded to the survey had experienced at least one episode of a mental health problem during or after pregnancy.
  • 38% of women referred to specialist care took over four weeks to be seen, with some waiting up to a year for treatment.
  • The survey revealed variation across the country in the care received, with 8% of women in one area being referred to specialist maternal mental health services, compared with 50% in another.

RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle said: ‘Perinatal mental illness exerts the most unimaginable toll on women, their baby and families and if we don’t invest in maternal mental health services now as a matter of urgency it will cost society more in the long term. This is an economic decision which must be made.’

The RCM is calling for every trust with maternity services to have a specialist maternal mental health midwife to work with community specialist teams to ensure there are appropriate care pathways for women with pregnancy-related mental health problems.

Ms Fyle added that maternal mental health services are particularly needed in the community, close to where women live, so the conditions can be monitored to prevent any deterioration.

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'Timely access to high quality specialist mental health support during pregnancy and after birth is essential, which is why NHS England is investing £365m to undertake a major programme of work to transform mental health services for new expectant and new mums, improving care for 30,000 more women each year by 2021.'


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