The process to open new mental health “hubs” is due to start in the coming months. The clinics will be for new, expecting or bereaved mothers.
It is only in recent years that the lack of support for mothers experiencing mental health problems has been recognised. Only five years ago there were no maternal mental health services in 40% of areas in England.
Each day around 2,000 babies are born into this country. Expectant mothers and fathers are usually very excited to welcome their babies and to experience what it is like to be a parent. Unfortunately, during the Covid-19 pandemic, expecting parents have been left feeling very “anxious”.
Mothers have had to navigate their way through attending appointments alone, with also the fear of catching the virus being a very scary prospect.
One mother who welcomed her baby boy in February, during the third national lockdown, is 19-year-old Faith. Faith has described how she felt very nervous during the whole of her pregnancy. She said: “I struggle with anxiety anyway so the prospect of doing everything alone was daunting. Also, the idea of getting Covid and not knowing how it would affect the baby, due to lack of research currently was really scary.”
A study titled “Babies in Lockdown” took place in August 2020 and showed that almost nine in ten parents felt more anxious as a result of the lockdown. One mother involved in the study said: “My anxiety is through the roof and I’m trying to get professional help with it to manage, but I’ve been told there is a long waiting list.”
Faith’s labour encountered many problems and she said that while most of the care she received from her midwives was “incredible”, she did feel her mental health was not always prioritised. “On the postnatal ward the support was not as good, some staff were a little dismissive of how I felt while there and the extent to which I was struggling,” she said.
The strain and mental struggles of mothers has gone further than just while they have been pregnant. Many have felt quite isolated during the lockdown and they have not been able to go out and socialise with their babies. Faith said: “I feel like I’m keeping my baby cooped up indoors too much due to the fear of him catching Covid … and not being able to socialise with other new mums at baby classes”.
Mothers’ groups and baby classes usually provide support to people experiencing parenthood for the first time. However, with Covid-19 it has meant that these events have had to be cancelled, leaving a lot of mothers feeling deflated and suffering with their mental health.
The addition of the new mental health “hubs” will mean that mothers will no longer be left wondering where to turn to, if they are struggling.
NHS England said the clinics will “integrate maternity, reproductive health and psychological therapy for women experiencing mental health difficulties directly arising from, or related to, the maternity experience.”
It is hoped that by 2024 all of the 44 local NHS areas will have one of these clinics opened.