The postcode lottery of new mothers’ mental health services

With one in 10 women developing a mental illness during or after pregnancy, including postpartum psychosis, not all are lucky enough to be cared for in a specialist mother and baby unit. The arrival of a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest times of a woman’s life. But for a sizeable minority, it takes a heavy toll on their mental health, posing a risk to the welfare of mother and baby alike.

More than one in 10 women develop a mental illness while expecting a child or in the first year after giving birth. For about 40,000 women it is severe and in extreme cases necessitates admitting mother and baby to a specialist unit.

Of the 40,000 who have antenatal or postnatal problems, or both, only a quarter get access to specialist perinatal mental health services. The costs of this postcode lottery are high, not only to the individuals and their families but to society. A study by the London School of Economics found that perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis carry a total long-term cost to society of about £8.1bn for each one-year cohort of births in the UK, with three-quarters of the cost relating to the impact on the child.

Gregoire said it would take about £100 per birth – compared with the £2,800 he said was spent on physical maternity care – to bring mental healthcare up to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence standards.


Full story available at The Guardian 10 February 2017