Women with mental health problems during and after pregnancy reveal the impact of low rates of specialist referral, long waits, as well as lack of consensus over medication and little support for their partners, in a survey published today (22 February) by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and supported by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA).
The survey of over 2,300 women who had given birth in the last five years in the UK, explores their experiences of perinatal mental health problems, engagement with healthcare professionals and the quality of care they received.
Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director, iHV, said:
“The Institute of Health Visiting, a member of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, welcomes the results of the ‘Women’s Voices’ survey run by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and launched today.
“This survey gives real life evidence on the level of support that women receive when suffering from perinatal mental illness (PMI) – and the variation there is in the level of services across the country. Health visitors are key healthcare professionals who are well-placed to identify and offer support to women suffering with PMI. However, our own surveys have shown that, although parents will turn to their health visitor for support, there is often insufficient time for the health visitor to offer the level of support required.
“We, at the iHV, deliver perinatal mental health (PMH) and infant mental health training to ensure standardised practice for health visitor professionals and the families they work with. Our PMH training has now been delivered to well over 10,000 health visitors and others across England. However, for this training to have the impact it should, more health visitors need the time to use what they have learnt to improve services, especially at the recommended contacts.
“Perinatal mental health is an incredibly important area of healthcare which can have a negative effect on the health and wellbeing of babies and families and ultimately on our society when we don’t recognise it early. Health visitors have always made a huge contribution to supporting pre-school children and their families and are the best-placed professional to help give all children the best start in life during the early years of life.”