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Maternal mental health: mothers missing out on vital mental health support

By Clare Gooch

As we reflect on Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (1 7 May 2023), it has been reported that pregnant women and new mothers across the UK are often not receiving vital mental health services that should be readily available to them.

Baby and mother hands

Becoming a new mother is portrayed as a wonderful and exciting experience. However, as amazing as it can be to bring a new life into the world, it can also be a very daunting and anxious time, with some expectant mothers feeling overwhelmed, isolated and lonely.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance  has found a discrepancy in the Maternal Mental Health services offered across the country. Almost one in five women experience a mental health condition during pregnancy or during the first five years of their child’s life. However, these women will not always receive the fundamental help they require in order to support them with their conditions.

In 2016 the UK government pledged a revolution in mental health services and gave almost £300m to provide specialist care for expectant or new mothers in England. However, despite this pledge, large gaps remain in maternal mental health care provision. These large gaps in care can prove to have devastating effects and can in some instances result in tragedy.

In 2020, 10 women took their own life while pregnant or shortly after giving birth the same number of women as the previous three years combined. It seems that the issue does not appear to be a lack of funding. With more money for this area of health care being set aside, rather, it is that money is not always being spent on what it was intended for. Figures from the MMHA show that almost three quarters of mental health trusts in England forecast an underspend for 2022. Across the UK, more than £15m allocated to improve maternal mental health in 2022 was not spent. The problem mentioned most often is recruitment either teams are not given enough certainty in the funding to hire staff or they simply cannot recruit.

We hope that by posting articles like this, we will firstly continue to raise awareness to expectant mothers that there is a lot of support available to them if they are struggling and secondly we will raise awareness to the supporting NHS services that there are lots of mothers and expectant mothers who require crucial mental health support from them.

We at Switalskis support many families who have sadly suffered as a result of the poor maternal mental health care, in particular failings to refer for mental health support that has led to maternal death. If you have been affected by any of the above, please contact us so that we can begin to support you. Most importantly, if you are an expectant mother or a mother that is struggling, please get in touch with your GP or community services there is help available to you.

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Clare has worked in Medical Negligence for over 10 years.  She’s a Senior Associate Solicitor in our Medical Negligence team based in Switalskis’ London office.

Senior Associate Solicitor

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