New maps launched today by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s Everyone’s Business Campaign show that pregnant women and new mums in a quarter of the UK still cannot access lifesaving specialist perinatal mental health services, which meet national guidelines.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance welcomes the encouraging signs of progress seen in some parts of the UK but raises the alarm: there is not progress for all parts of the country at the same rate, meaning right now, women and families still face a postcode lottery.

According to the new data, pregnant women and new mums in 24% of the UK still have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services (rated red on the map). The maps show that whilst many more women now live in an area coloured green on the map, meaning specialist perinatal mental health services are available in their locality, it is unacceptable that so many women and their families still cannot access essential care.

More than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. Women with the most severe perinatal illnesses need to be able to access vital specialist services wherever they live. If left untreated these illnesses can have a devastating impact on women and their families. In the most serious cases, perinatal mental illness can be life threatening: suicide is a leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and one year after giving birth.

When a woman lives in an area where she is able to access specialist services, with a team of trained staff, it can make all the difference to her quality of care, speed of recovery and support both for her and relationships with her baby and family.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:

“The Institute of Health Visiting is fully committed to supporting  the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s Everyone’s Business Campaign and, as active members of the Alliance, the Institute is delighted to see the progress which has been made to provide access to specialist perinatal mental health services for all mothers.

“It is unacceptable that there is still a lack of parity for mental health in the perinatal period and that suicide is still a leading cause of maternal death. These new maps show that much has been achieved, and the great strides are to be applauded – but we must press on, there is still much to do to turn the map green.

“Women with severe perinatal illnesses require timely referral to specialist perinatal mental health services, and health visitors are crucial – to not only accessing specialist perinatal mental health services, but they also work upstream, often preventing a potential mental health problem becoming a mental health crisis/severe mental illness. Thus, alongside supporting the call for continued funding of specialist perinatal mental health services, the Institute is urging additional investment to ensure there is a confident, competent, capable and committed universal health visiting service at every local level.

“To ensure that every mother (and her family) does indeed, get the right help, in the right place, at the right time, we need properly funded and supported pathways of care at every local level. It is most definitely #everyonesbusiness”