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Mothers and babies missing out on vital support says NSPCC

1st August 2013

The wellbeing of more than one in 10 newborn babies in England could be improved if all new mothers with mental illness had equal access to good services, an NSPCC report reveals today. The charity is calling on Health Ministers to lead a drive to address major gaps in access to mental health services for pregnant and new mums.

Mental health problems can begin or escalate when a woman is pregnant or in her child’s first year. They can have a damaging effect on family life, and in the worst cases, impact on babies’ health and welfare.

Evidence shows the vast majority of these illnesses are preventable and treatable, with the right support. The charity recognises there are many excellent services working hard to ensure families get the support they need. However it describes how a lack of focus on mother’s mental health has led to a ‘postcode lottery’ for families, with less than half of mental health trusts having specialist mental health services for expectant and new mums.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:  “This report clearly shows that with the right services, it is possible to prevent the harm caused by maternal mental illness. But opportunities to help many more families are being missed.

“We have to start treating the mental health of mums and babies with the same importance as their physical health.

“Pregnancy and the first months of a child’s life are critical for their future wellbeing and parents naturally play a vital role. If the Government is serious about giving every child the best start in life it must take action to fill the gaps in services.”

Dr Ian Jones, Vice-Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Section, said: “Maternal mental health remains a neglected area but is of huge importance and has long-lasting impact on the woman herself, her family and wider society. This NSPCC report highlights the need for specialist perinatal mental health services and the postcode lottery that characterises current provision. We must work to give women and their families the care they require.”

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