Shropshire watchdog calls on services to make more space for new parents to discuss mental health
A health watchdog in Shropshire is calling on local services to make more space for new parents to talk about their mental health.
Healthwatch Shropshire is making the appeal following the publication of a new national report, Mental Health and the Journey to Parenthood.
Exploring the experiences of women with mental health problems has found that many people are not experiencing the consistent support they should expect if services were following NHS guidelines.
The findings reflect what women told Healthwatch Shropshire when it investigated the issue last January.
The Healthwatch England report focuses on a survey of 1,738 women and draws on the research undertaken by the group in Shropshire.
These women reported either having a mental health condition diagnosed by a doctor before, during or after having a baby or they said they had experienced a mental health problem which had not been diagnosed.
The report highlights the need to provide more opportunities for new parents and health professionals to talk about mental health during the journey to parenthood.
Despite the increased focus on NHS support for mental health, women said that they were not being given enough information about the mental health support available and what to do if they need help.
In the report, a third of women who had a diagnosed mental health condition said they were not given any advice about maternity and mental health at any point.
Nearly half of all women described getting support for their mental health as ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.
A total of 58 per cent said they did not get a care plan that considered their maternity and mental health needs, while 36 per cent reported not feeling involved in decisions about their care.
Around a third of all women rated the quality of mental health support given by health professionals as poor or very poor.
Commenting on the findings, Lynn Cawley, chief officer of Healthwatch Shropshire, said: “Women and their partners experiencing maternity mental health issues for the first time appear to have considerable difficulty accessing help and support.
"A system-wide understanding of the referral criteria for each part of the service is needed, for example perinatal mental health team, psychological therapies.
"This will save professionals time and reduce distress for parents.
"The mothers’ and partners’ long-standing relationships with primary care, where they exist, could be vital in helping some of them to engage with the mental health support on offer.”
Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, said: “It’s good to see that the NHS is investing in better mental health support for new mothers.
"While our research does highlight the positive impact that the right support can have, it also shows how much more needs to be done to make sure that all women get the right help, at the right time.
“People meet with a whole host of professionals before and after having a baby, and space must be made for them to talk about how they’re feeling.
"Parents must feel empowered to speak up and understand where to go for support so that they can manage any mental health problems they face, form strong bonds with baby and help lay the foundations for a healthy, happy life for all involved.”