Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is working alongside maternity units to provide a new dedicated Maternity Mental Health Service, offering specialist mental health support to new, expectant and bereaved mothers across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The new service is part of the NHS Long Term Plan to increase access to psychological support for women before, during and after pregnancy. Following a 12-month pilot, Southern Health is one of the first Trusts in the country to deliver the Maternity Mental Health Service. They will be one of 26 services nationally aiming to enable at least 66,000 women, nationwide, with moderate to severe mental health difficulties related to motherhood, access specialist care by 2023/24.
Dr Hannah Wilson, Perinatal Lead Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust says;
“At Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust we are delighted to deliver the Maternity Mental Health Services to new mums across Hampshire and IOW. We know historically, and nationwide, there has been a gap in pregnant women and new mums receiving the much needed specialist psychological support they need. We know the difference this is making to new mums and their families to be able to improve their lives for the better”
This new service consists of specialist mental health professionals, based at maternity units across Hampshire and IOW, who will identify and assess moderate mental health difficulties in new, expectant and bereaved mothers. This includes difficulties associated with birth trauma, anxiety and baby loss. For example, new mums may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following birth trauma, distress following perinatal loss (including early miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or termination of a baby) separation at birth and/or a severe fear of childbirth, known as Tokophobia.
When referred to the Maternity Mental Health Service, mothers will be offered a range of psychological support including a tailored care plan that may include one to one support and / or group therapy sessions.
Since January 2020, the Maternity Mental Health Team has already received over 150 referrals, offering over 450 appointments to new, expectant and bereaved mums. The service has reported significant reductions in psychological distress and symptoms in their patients.
New mum, Katherine Plant, received treatment from the Maternal Mental Health Team in January 2020 following a traumatic birth and says,
“I cannot emphasise enough how important this therapy is. Birth trauma is very real, often overlooked, and has long-term consequences on so many areas of life. My psychological therapy allowed me to process what happened, deal with the feelings surrounding it and come out the other side feeling more like my old self than I ever thought possible. I had another baby in February and this would not have been possible without the help and support I received from the Maternity Mental Health Team. I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to benefit from this service and will be eternally grateful at the positive impact it has had on mine and my family’s life.”
Midwives are already seeing the benefits of the new service that also provides psychological support and supervision to specialist mental health midwifes and midwifery birth reflection teams.
Helen Bloomfield, Lead Midwife for Mental Health Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says,
“I cannot imagine trying to do my job without the Maternity Mental Health Service being there. Pregnancy and birth are such significant life events for families and this service is essential in supporting maternity services to provide the best possible care and make appropriate referrals, which meet mental health needs.
The support we receive from the team has been so useful. Knowing that there is someone who can be called for advice and suggestions, as well as to refer to, is supportive and means that we can sometimes reduce the pressure on other mental health services.”
New, expectant or bereaved mothers can be referred to the Maternity Mental Health Service by their midwife, GP and other healthcare professionals.