Mental health care and treatment for new, expectant and bereaved mothers in Gloucestershire is being improved and expanded as part of a national initiative to enhance support for women who have birth related trauma and mental health difficulties.
Gloucestershire is included in the roll out of 26 new hubs bringing together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapy under one roof as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The county already has a perinatal mental health service, which supports women with moderate to severe mental health conditions during pregnancy and up to one year after the birth of their child. The new service will expand and improve care, as well as enable more women and families to be supported.
Trish Butler, Clinical Implementation Manager for the service, from Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The new service will work in partnership with the current perinatal service, strengthening existing relationships with maternity, GPs and Health Visiting. We will focus on improving the care of women with birth related trauma including maternal loss who go on to have mental health difficulties. This may include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following birth trauma, PTSD following perinatal loss including recurrent miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, and severe fear of childbirth (tokophobia).
“Another area of our work will be providing training to professionals, such as GPs, health visitors and midwives. Importantly, we will also be involving ‘experts by experience’, who are women who have experienced maternal mental health issues, including a paid peer support worker to ensure what we do is structured completely around women and their needs. Working with the third sector, we will also be able to support and advise other family members, including fathers and partners.”
Dr Mala Ubhi, GP Clinical Lead for Mental Health with NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are really excited about this development in Gloucestershire. We know some women suffer in silence so part of the aim of the service will be to improve detection of women who are struggling with mental health difficulties and make sure they get the right care. We know that early detection and treatment improves outcomes for women and their babies, preventing ongoing difficulties throughout childhood and into later life.
“As a ‘Fast Follower’ we will learn from the work of the first 10 services already running in the country. We have already started offering the service to women as of last month, and will be increasing the number of women we can see over the next year as we continue to develop the service. This is a community-based service so will not be based in just one building, but instead appointments will be offered to women in a variety of locations to suit them. This is a much-needed service that will address the needs of women for whom there is currently insufficient support.”