New, expectant and bereaved mothers will soon have the help of dozens of new mental health hubs across the country, the NHS has announced.
NHS England is setting up 26 new sites especially for women – bringing together maternity care and psychological therapy under one roof.
They will offer treatment for a range of mental health issues from postnatal depression to severe fear of childbirth, a spokesperson said.
The new centres will also provide specialist training for maternity staff and midwives – as well as services for reproductive health and bereavement, they added.
Ten of the hubs will be up and running in the coming months, with the rest due to open by next April.
Dr Giles Berrisford, NHS England’s national speciality adviser for perinatal mental health, said that about a quarter of women experience psychological difficulties between pregnancy and 24 months after birth.
He said the hubs will offer "vital support" – and Jude Diggins, the Royal College of Nursing’s interim director of nursing policy and public affairs, said they "could not come at a more important time".
"Having a baby is a life-changing experience and no one should have to go through this without the help and support they need," he said.
"Sadly, this pandemic has placed even more strain on existing perinatal mental health services as isolation, loneliness and other factors take hold."
Charlotte Joliffe’s son Freddie died at just 13 months following a car accident in 2014.
She said she couldn’t understand why there were no dedicated services for bereaved parents, so she decided to set up her own, which has now become the charity Freddie’s Wish.
"When you are pregnant you are under a midwife, once your child is born you have a health visitor but when your child dies there is no such support system," she told Sky News.
Describing the aftermath of Freddie’s death, she added: "It was a traumatic time for us as a family and we were left not knowing where to turn.
"If a dedicated service had been in place as part of the NHS, like they are now proposing, this would have been so incredibly important in providing appropriate support to enable me to navigate the necessary but difficult path of grief."
The 10 initial mental health hubs will be in the following locations:
- Birmingham & Solihull
- Shropshire Telford & Wrekin
- South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw
- Lancashire and South Cumbria
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight
- Kent and Medway