Health boards not taking maternal mental health seriously enough, warn charities

Written by Tom Freeman on 22 April 2015 in News

NSPCC and Maternal Mental Health Scotland call for more mental health support for new mothers

Gaps in mental health provision in Scotland’s maternity services need to be plugged to “protect two generations of vulnerable Scots”, according to new research by charities NSPCC and Maternal Mental Health Scotland.

Getting it Right for Mothers and Babies reveals ten of Scotland’s 14 territorial health boards have no midwives or health visitors with accredited perinatal mental health training, a decade after recommendations for professional training were established. Only four boards have a permenant specialist community perinatal mental health service, and one other has a funded place until March 2016.

Further staff training and more local specialised services is needed to provide equal access to support, the report recommends.

More than one in ten women in Scotland are affected by mental ill-health during pregnancy and birth, and the NSPCC says the benefits of supporting vulnerable mothers will also benefit their babies throughout their lifetime.

Matt Forde, head of NSPCC Scotland services said Scotland had made progress in supporting pregnant women, but ongoing integration of health and social care presented an opportunity to make more effective change.

“We know that children of mothers experiencing perinatal mental illness are at increased risk of prematurity, low birth weight and sleep problems. And the relationship between a baby and their primary caregiver can affect their self-esteem, resilience and ability to socialise. This in turn can affect a child’s behaviour and academic abilities when they get to school.

“But we also know that all mothers want the best for their children. By improving detection rates for mental health issues and ensuring the right primary care and specialist support is available for every mother who needs it, we can make a real difference for both her and her child,” he said.

In the foreword to the report, mothers from the Western Isles, Edinburgh Lanarkshire and Glasgow say stigma about post-natal depression (PND) remains.

“Because of the stigma attached, you think, ‘PND is for mums who aren’t coping’. You never once think it will be you. It’s easy to lie on the Edinburgh Post Natal Scale. But it’s also easy for a health visitor to say, ‘baby’s important, but how are you?’” they write.

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