Clinicians, managers and service users from across west London gathered at an event to discuss how to better support mothers suffering with mental health problems and their families.
Perinatal mental illness affects one in 10 women during pregnancy and within the first year after having a baby. Many women suffer in silence and have no access to specialist care. According to recent data published by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, pregnant women and new mothers across almost half of the UK do not have access to specialist perinatal mental health services, potentially leaving them and their babies at risk.
Within west London, there is a small perinatal mental health service at Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital (QCCH). The service is provided by West London Mental Health NHS Trust and sees around 200 women each year who are booked to deliver their babies at QCCH. Clinicians and partners are now considering expanding the service in Hammersmith and Fulham as well as introducing perinatal services in Ealing and Hounslow where there is no current provision.
Consultant perinatal psychiatrist Dr Sarah Taha said: “We need a clear care pathway for women who experience perinatal mental health problems, so that all professionals know how to access the care they need for women they see. In addition, women across the three boroughs should have access to a specialist perinatal mental health service. We have discussed this need with our colleagues, users and partners. There are big gaps in how we look after vulnerable women with these conditions and it is important that we provide more effective care.”
The event also heard from users with lived experience that have previously accessed the service in Hammersmith & Fulham.
Hammersmith & Fulham GP Dr Beverley McDonald said: "As a GP and a mother of two, I am passionate about ensuring excellent perinatal mental health and wellbeing. Every woman is vulnerable at this very precious time in life."
Christa Scholtz, scheme manager at Home-Start Westminster, was also there. She said: “The event gave everyone the chance to input and to give their views on the way the service should be provided in the future. Across the UK, mental illness in pregnant and postnatal women often goes unrecognised so it is vital that services are widely available and delivered as effectively as possible.”