Thousands of mothers failing to receive mental health support they need

Pregnant women or those who have given birth are often left to suffer from mental health in silence, a damning new report has revealed.

The most recent figures suggest that up to one in five (20 per cent) of mothers have problems with mental illness, such as postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after giving birth. However, many are not receiving the help they so desperately need.

Other evidence shows that between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of new mothers and pregnant women develop some form of mental illness, such as anxiety and depression.

In total, this means that around 66,500 to 133,000 women a year develop a mental illness problem linked with childbirth.

But the new research report reveals that many NHS trusts are offering very little support to new or expectant mothers, while others are offering no help at all.

The report indicates yet another ‘postcode lottery’ in the quality of mental health advice given. For example, it shows that some women are forced to travel more than 30 miles to receive help, if they choose to do so at all.

Overall, figures show that just 13,600 women were treated by specialist community perinatal mental health teams in 2016 – far from the total number of women estimated to suffer from mental illness after giving birth.

Agnes Hann, the research manager at the National Childbirth Trust, said: “These findings are shocking, and mean that thousands of women experiencing potentially serious perinatal mental health problems are not getting the support they need.

“Perinatal mental illness can have a severe and long-term impact on mothers, babies and families. In extreme circumstances, it can result in tragedy – suicide is a leading cause of maternal death.”

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