Belfast Telegraph

Thousands of women risk receiving inadequate pregnancy support, says NSPCC

Perinatal mental health problems are among the most common complications a woman can experience when having a baby, with up to one in five affected.

Thousands of women and their families in Northern Ireland who need treatment for mental health problems during pregnancy risk receiving inadequate support, charity worker Caroline Cunningham said (NSPCC/PA)
Thousands of women and their families in Northern Ireland who need treatment for mental health problems during pregnancy risk receiving inadequate support, charity worker Caroline Cunningham said (NSPCC/PA)

Thousands of women and their families in Northern Ireland who need treatment for mental health problems during pregnancy risk receiving inadequate support, a charity said.

Perinatal mental health problems are among the most common complications a woman can experience when having a baby, with up to one in five affected during pregnancy and in the year after birth.

The NSPCC identified “significant gaps” in provision of vital services.

Investment for specialist perinatal mental health services is vital so families can access the right support in their local area Caroline Cunningham

Caroline Cunningham, senior policy researcher at NSPCC Northern Ireland, said: “New mums and dads in Northern Ireland are still not receiving the mental health support that they need to give their babies the best start in life.

“Investment for specialist perinatal mental health services is vital so families can access the right support in their local area.

“The Department of Health must make a commitment to ensure that midwives and health visitors get the training and support they need and all women and their families affected by the most serious problems can access potentially lifesaving treatment in the form of specialist services, and support from a mother and baby unit if they need it.”

The study found increased strain is being put on midwives and health visitors across Northern Ireland.

The NSPCC has launched a new campaign, Fight for a Fair Start, which calls for improved perinatal mental health provision and to ensure babies and families have the best start.

It said Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK with no commitment to invest in what it said was a vital issue.

The charity has also warned of the impact of lack of specialist services including a mother and baby unit for new mothers who experience more serious perinatal mental health conditions.

Women who need specialist inpatient care are admitted for treatment in a general psychiatric ward, separated from their babies.

In March, the Scottish Government announced a £50 million investment to improve services, and England and Wales have also made significant investments in this area.

In Northern Ireland there continues to be no commitment to funding these vital services, the NSPCC said.

It added: “In Northern Ireland, means that up to 4,600 live births could be affected within a year.

“If untreated perinatal mental illnesses can have a devastating impact on women, babies and families.”

PA

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