Perinatal mental health (PMH) problems are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child. Perinatal mental illness affects up to 20% of new and expectant mums and covers a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, depression or more severe illness like post-partum psychosis, and without treatment can have a devastating effect on families.
Suicide is the second leading cause of maternal death and perinatal mental illness can also affect the health and wellbeing of infants and children. A sense of anxiety for new dads is also common and fathers can become depressed, particularly where partners suffer from perinatal mental health problems or where they feel unable to cope.
If left untreated, mental health issues can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman, the child, and the wider family. Specialist PMH services provide care and treatment for women with complex mental health needs and support the developing relationship between parent and baby. They also offer women with mental health needs advice for planning a pregnancy.
The NHS Five Year Forward View for Mental Health aims to ensure that by 2023/24, at least 66,000 women in England with moderate/complex to severe PMH difficulties can access care and support in the community, and our work in West Yorkshire is part of that commitment.
NEW - West Yorkshire Maternal Mental Health pilot now open for referrals
The NHS Long Term Plan set out a commitment to develop and implement maternal mental health services (previously referred to Maternity Outreach clinics) by 2023/24 for women experiencing moderate to severe of complex mental health difficulties directly arising from, or related to, their maternity experience. In West Yorkshire we are piloting a number of initiatives that will help us better understand how to develop our MMH services of the future and as part of this work Forget Me Not have been funded to run one pilot that will see their existing service expanded to support women who are presenting with psychological distress, mental health difficulties and/or symptoms of complex grief associated with pregnancy and baby loss in the last two years. You can read more about the project and the referral criteria in this leaflet.
How Do We Reduce Inequalities in Perinatal Mental Health Care?
Researchers from Born in Bradford and the Universities of Huddersfield and York have recently completed an in-depth study across five workstreams to understand the inequalities in identification and treatment of perinatal mental health (PMH) in order to develop recommendations and adaptations to address these inequalities. This research was funded by West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, in collaboration with the Perinatal Mental Health Steering Group and took place across services within West Yorkshire.
The five workstream reports are:
Our work in the community
Leeds Community Perinatal Mental Health Service, Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust. Improving access, experience, and outcomes for women from ethnic minority communities.
As the Leeds Community Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) Service expands in line with the NHS Long Term Plan ambitions, it is focusing on reaching out to women from ethnic minority communities, to improve their access, experience, and wellbeing.
This includes piloting a role called a Clinical Engagement, Access and Inclusion Coordinator. Balvinder Dosanjh has been in post since 2020.
During this time Balvinder has raised awareness of perinatal mental health needs in culturally diverse communities, addressing cultural stigma, and improving access to the service for women from these communities. The work has included encouraging women who access care to share their experience though the following podcasts and blogs.
The service has carried out evaluation through interviews with 10 women. The next steps include engaging community elders and faith leaders.
Case study - Sadif's story
Sadif Najmi, who lives in the Roundhay area of Leeds, expected her sixth pregnancy to be a similar experience to her previous babies. It wasn’t until the later stages of her pregnancy that Sadif was faced with an unexpected period of anxiety and panic attacks. This is her story.
Information in community languages
We are committed to making sure that all mothers receive equitable access to excellent perinatal mental health support services and information. To help with this, we are using these short films in Punjabi, Mirpuri, Urdu, Gujarati, Slovakian and Dari produced by award-winning charity Acacia. Each film aims to raise awareness of perinatal mental health issues in a culturally appropriate way and explains how to seek help.
In November and December 2020, a series of engagement meetings was undertaken with women who represented the perinatal journey covering pre-pregnancy (all planning), pregnancy and the postnatal period. The aim of these consultations was to test potential messages and propositions and, through co-production, refine them to optimise engagement and impact of future communication campaigns relating to Perinatal Mental Health.
We recruited a mix of women from across West Yorkshire in terms of age, ethnicity, first time/non-first time mums and relationship status, all of whom had expressed some perinatal mental health (PNMH) concerns or anxieties and who had not engaged with any PNMH services. Due to the individual nature of each person and their experiences, the consultations were carried out as a one hour in-depth interview on a one-to-one basis using Zoom. You can read the report from the engagement here.
We ran an awareness campaign between July and October 2021 to encourage women who may be suffering from perinatal mental health problems, and the people who care about them and for them, to contact their GP for help and support. The campaign included advertisements on social media and signposting information to the GP, health visitor and midwifery services that can help.
The campaign had more than 11.5 million impressions, with people typically viewing the social media ad more than 13 times.