The ‘patchy’ nature of mental health services for expecting and new mothers has been highlighted in a new report for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
Every Mother Must Get the Help They Need, published 19 July, collates 6,898 comments from mothers, friends and family, midwives, and other healthcare staff detailing their experiences with perinatal mental health – either experiencing, witnessing or treating it.
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It is based on a petition set up by Lucie Holland in 2015 after her sister Emma died following a struggle with perinatal mental health. Calling for better awareness and care provision, the petition went viral and gained thousands of signatures, as well as heartfelt comments sharing further stories of perinatal mental health.
RCM professional policy advisor Janet Fyle said: ‘The comments left on Lucie’s change.org 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.
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‘For the RCM and our partners this is an opportunity to hear the voices of thousands of women and their families and generate new ideas going forward. 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.’
Following a roundtable discussion in London to go along with the report’s release, the RCM will call on the government to invest more funding into services for women suffering pregnancy related mental health problems. They want every trust with maternity services to have a specialist midwife in post to deal with perinatal mental health cases.
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Maternal Mental Health Alliance chair Dr Alain Gregoire said: ‘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.’
Lucie Holland reflected on the recurrence of words such as ‘fortunate’ and ‘lucky’ in comments on her petition and report, saying her sister had no been so ‘lucky’ due to the lack of specialist services in her area.