Suicide is one of the leading causes of maternal death, according to a doctor leading calls to transform services related to perinatal psychosis.
Dr Rina Gupta, a consultant perinatal psychiatrist at Rainbow Mother & Baby Unit in Chelmsford, spoke at a conference hosted by the PANDAS charity focusing on good practice for care of women with mental health problems during pregnancy.
Appearing in Wembley on 23 June, she touched on the heightened risks of relapse in women suffering mental health problems who come of their medication abruptly for the sake of a pregnancy – with the chance of a relapse increasing by 70% in these cases. Other detrimental factors included a family history of mental health or a poor socioeconomic personal situation.
She said: ‘Over time I have learned to not only look at women from the obstetric point of view but also the psychological point of view when consulting through their pregnancy. The NHS has given around £375 million to the improvement of services in this field.
READ MORE: Midwives 'crucial' to get mothers talking about mental health
‘The issue of stigma leads mothers to not seek help and some women with severe psychosis can end up killing themselves or even their children due to their severe illness. Postpartum periods can be the point where these women are most vulnerable to a relapse or episode – the first two to four weeks after birth are when these problems usually present.
‘We need the resources and education, and for these mothers to feel able to speak to their doctors and nurses about the problems they are experiencing, in order to respond effectively to this.’
Alongside Dr Gupta, other medical professionals appeared at the conference to share their perspectives on perinatal psychosis, as well as other mental health problems mothers experience – including depression.
READ MORE: Perinatal mental health major strain on NHS finances
Health visitor Gill Marin, from St George’s Foundation NHS Trust, spoke of her experiences with postnatal mental health problems following the birth of her second child.
She said: ‘You always hear about severe mental illness in the media, but little is said about the mothers who experience problems like depression and detachment following birth – which is a great number of them.
‘It was hard to come to terms with it as a medical professional when I experienced these things myself. I had already had a positive experience with my first baby so that, coupled with my job, made me think I wasn’t the sort of person who could feel this way.
READ MORE: Calls to merge physical and mental healthcare
‘I am now in a position to help other women like me – as a perinatal mental health specialist. We need to listen to the mothers and partners going through this, we must consult with them to make sure we are not missing anything.
‘Treatment needs to be consistent so patients aren’t sent from one appointment to the next hearing different things about what they are going through. There is plenty of room to develop this further.’