There is an “urgent need” for more funding for mental health care for expectant and new mothers, leading midwives have said
The comments from the Royal College of Midwives come after a report claims services across the UK are “under resourced”.
Researchers wrote the report following an online petition which gathered more than 55,000 signatures calling for the NHS to review how it treats and cares for women with postnatal depression.
The petition was set up by Lucie Holland, whose sister Emma Cadywould died following a battle with postnatal depression.
The report states that Ms Cadywould took her own life six months after giving birth to her first son – despite having been under NHS-lead mental health care.
Her family urged health officials to look into the care of women with the condition, saying that if she had been referred to for specialist care she would have recovered.
In response to the poll, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) published a new report which analysed a number of comments left in response to the petition.
Many people who commented on the poll shared personal experiences with perinatal depression.
The authors found that 42% of respondents to the Change.org petition had either directly suffered or witnessed someone close suffering from maternal mental illness.
They state that the findings add to the body of evidence that maternal mental health is “under resourced in terms of awareness and funding of services across the UK”.
Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the RCM, said: “The comments left on Lucie’s petition speak of the devastation suffered by some women and their families and more crucial is the fact that mental ill health continues to carry a stigma for most sufferers.
“If we are to improve the experiences of women seeking help and support for mental health problems in the perinatal period it is crucial that we collectively take on board these comments.
“The RCM has said time and time again that there is an urgent need for the Government to invest more into funding services for women suffering with pregnancy related mental health problems.
“Every Trust with maternity services should have a specialist midwife in post to enable women who are unwell to get the very best care and support they need.
“The comments should also be the driving force behind how we organise and provide perinatal mental health services for all women across the UK irrespective of where they live.”
Ms Holland, who wrote the forward for the report, said there were thousands of “emotional and heartfelt” comments left on her petition.
She added: “We live every day missing her. We will continue to raise awareness and fight for change.
“The provision of perinatal mental health services is under looked yet significantly important in preventing the loss of any more mothers in the UK.
“Thank you for every one of the 6,898 comments left; with these we will build positive change out of a tragedy that will haunt my family forever.”
Dr Alain Gregoire, chairman of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, added: “Emma’s tragic death as a result of a severe perinatal mental illness offers us all an urgent wake-up call.
“We must act now to prevent more women from suffering or dying unnecessarily.
“Recovery through good support and care should be the norm if women and families everywhere have access to high quality specialist services, but it is still a postcode lottery. This has to change.”
Commenting on the RCM report, a spokeswoman for NHS England said: “Every year in England there are around 700,000 births and national NHS surveys tell us that the majority of women report they receive good care.
“We know that caring for the mental health of new and expectant mums is equally as important as caring for their physical health, which is why we are investing in additional mental health services, meaning an extra 30,000 women a year will receive specialised care by 2020/21 to give mothers and babies the very best start in life”