On June 12th I attended the Perinatal Mental Health Care in Wales research report. Myself and over 70 people, including health and social care practitioners, academics, policy makers, third sector organisations and women and their partners with experience of perinatal mental health problems, came to Cardiff to celebrate the launch of the Perinatal Mental Health in Wales research report.
The launch included opening remarks by Lynne Neagle AM, and Chair of National Assembly for Wales’ Children, Young People and Education Committee; a lived experience story by Sally Wilson; an overview of the research findings by Dr. Sarah Witcombe-Hayes; and a panel session with NSPCC Cymru/Wales, National Centre for Mental Health, Mind Cymru and Mental Health Foundation which focused on key challenges in perinatal mental health care in Wales and key priorities for change. The event was closed by Emily Slater, the Director of Maternal Mental Health Alliance Everyone’s Business Campaign, who gave a UK-wide campaigning perspective on perinatal mental health.
The new report, From Bumps to Babies, was published on the 12th June by NSPCC Wales, the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), Mind Cymru and Mental Health Foundation, with support from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance Everyone’s Business Campaign. The report highlights that perinatal mental health problems are one of the most common complications that a woman can experience when having a baby with recent UK research suggesting that one in four women can be affected. In Wales, around 9,000 new mothers every year will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the 12 months following the birth of their child. These include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic distress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis. If left untreated, these conditions can have a devastating impact on women and their families.
One mother who took part in the research said:
“I had no idea that you could experience scary thoughts about the baby and that it was called postnatal anxiety – I thought I was genuinely losing my mind” (Mum)
The research findings showed that important progress has been made in the provision of perinatal mental health care to women and their families in Wales. Where previous gaps existed, there are now specialist community perinatal mental health services in most health boards, and women are already benefitting from these new specialist services.
“The perinatal team are amazing. Thanks to them, I have bonded amazingly with my daughter and I’m getting to enjoy being a mother” (Mum)
However, the research found that women in Wales are still not receiving all aspects of care they need to help them recover from perinatal mental health problems. The area in which a woman lives still determines the specialist perinatal mental care they can access.
One mother who took part in the research said: “Once I got the right support it was superb, it was getting it that caused the problem. It’s such a postcode lottery. If I lived in Cardiff I would have had the input far sooner.”
Critical improvements are needed across the perinatal mental health pathway to better support women and their families facing these conditions.
The report draws out 24 recommendations, including:
* Addressing the inconsistency in specialist perinatal mental health service provision between health boards in Wales;
* Improve early identification of perinatal mental health problems;
* For specialist mother and baby unit provision to be available in Wales
* Inclusion of perinatal mental health in pre-registration training for all mental health practitioners and all health professionals working in the perinatal period;
We are asking Welsh Government to provide strong leadership to ensure that the vision presented in the report are translated into reality for women and their families across Wales.
The report can be downloaded in English and Welsh:
From bumps to babies: perinatal mental health care in Wales