NHS England has invested £23m extra funding, which they say will be made available over the next few months, to improve the mental health of at least 3,000 pregnant women and those who have recently given birth.
“With so many new mums having the joy of motherhood interrupted by mental ill health, improving care, investment and focus on this issue, is crucial,” said Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England.
NHS England confirmed to HuffPost UK that women who wish to seek help in person will still be able to do so.
“It’s all about getting help in the most convenient way for [the mother],” they said. “Some may prefer this in person and others online via Skype to help them without them having to leave the house or go to any additional bother.”
Murdoch said improving access to mental health care is the foundation of NHS plans to improve services.
“Falling pregnant and becoming a mum is a hugely emotional experience,” she said. “So having expert support available, including working with people’s partners as well as their wider family and social networks, to help manage the upheaval, means that women who are experiencing mental health issues don’t have to suffer and struggle alone.”
The new funding will be used to improve community perinatal services. As well as the Skype service, this also includes recruiting more than 200 specialist staff and opening four new mother and baby units that specialise in the treatment of mothers with their babies when they are suffering with mental illness.
Falling pregnant and becoming a mum is a hugely emotional experience." Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England
Commenting on the additional funding for new mums, Mumsnet founder and CEO Justine Roberts said: “The perinatal period can be stressful and demanding, and women who are affected deserve prompt and compassionate professional care.
“When we asked Mumsnet users who had recently given birth about their experience of postnatal care, they told us that mental health services needed more resource.”
Perinatal mental health problems affect between 10 to 20% of women during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby.
A report from August 2017 stated that historically there has been a lack of integrated physical and mental health care in England for women during pregnancy and in the months following birth, as well as a lack of specialist perinatal mental health services to support women who become unwell.
The funding is part of a major five-year programme of £365m investment by NHS England, which they say will see 30,000 women getting specialist mental health care during the early stages of motherhood by 2021.
The Skype service will be rolled out across certain Clinical Commissioning Groups over the next two months. In the meantime pregnant women and mums who are interested in finding out more about the services that are available in their area are advised to speak to their GP.