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The Local Pathway for Maternal Mental Health in Solent

7th May 2021

In support of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (3-9 May 2021 – #MMHWeek2021), a Voices Blog by Charlotte Gatehouse, Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health at Solent NHS Trust.

Charlotte Gatehouse, Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health at Solent NHS Trust

This week is ‘Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week’ and the theme is ‘Journeys to Recovery’. Becoming a new parent can be a wonderful time, but also a really difficult time. One in four women experience mental health problems during pregnancy and the year following the birth of their baby. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, and the causes of mental health problems during this time can vary. Each person’s journey to recovery is different, but we know that timely and appropriate support can reduce both the human and economic costs to the women, families and wider society.

In Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, Solent NHS Trust, alongside partner organisations, have come together to form a network which includes representatives from services involved in the identification, intervention and support for mothers experiencing mental health issues.  A key area of development for this network is the local perinatal mental health pathway. The pathway sets out the journey that women who are at risk of, or suffering from, perinatal mental illness should expect, which services are available and guidance on ensuring women receive the right care, in the right order at the right time. The ambition of the pathway is to join up a range of different services, to ensure effective assessment, timely, appropriate referral and that mothers experience one seamless service, including when her needs may change.

Specialist Health Visitors for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health have an important role to play within multidisciplinary networks. Health Visitors are a crucial element of these pathways; as a universal service, they are ideally placed to identify mothers who are at risk or are suffering from a mental health problem. Specialist Health Visitors both ensure the role of Health Visitor is represented, as well as raising awareness of pathways and ensuring these are integrated into local guidance.

This Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to raise awareness of the local pathway. I am therefore hosting a virtual event; inviting Health Visitors and service partners to learn more and provide feedback on the pathway. We hope the event will help to clarify what provision is available and how to access it, knowing when to refer and how. Raising awareness is vital in ensuring women access timely and appropriate support and improving both experience and outcomes for the mother, baby and wider family.

Charlotte Gatehouse, Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health at Solent NHS Trust.