New campaign calls for better perinatal mental health in Northern Ireland

New research has shown significant gaps in Northern Ireland when it comes to the provision of vital services and care for women affected by perinatal mental health illnesses

The study was carried out by NSPCC Northern Ireland, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA), and calls for improvements in support for pregnant women.

Perinatal mental health issues are among the most common complications a woman can go through when having a baby.

Up to one-in-five expectant mums are affected during pregnancy and in the year following the birth by emotionally challenging problems.

Caroline Cunningham, senior policy researcher at NSPCC Northern Ireland, said:

“New mums and dads in Northern Ireland are still not receiving the mental health support that they need to give their babies the best start in life.

“Investment for specialist perinatal mental health services is vital so families can access the right support in their local area." she continued.

Caroline added; “The Department of Health must make a commitment to ensure that midwives and health visitors get the training and support they need."

The study pointed out that increased strain is being placed on midwives and health visitors across the North.

According to Caroline; "All women and their families affected by the most serious problems can access potentially lifesaving treatment in the form of specialist services, and support from a mother and baby unit if they need it.”

The NSPCC has launched a new campaign, Fight for a Fair Start, calling for better perinatal mental health provision and to ensure babies and families have a deservedly good beginning.

Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK with zero commitment to investing in this vital issue.

The NSPCC also warned about the impact which a lack of specialist services would have for new mums experiencing serious perinatal mental health conditions.

A mother and baby unit is desperately needed. Women who need specialist inpatient care are admitted for treatment in a general psychiatric ward, separated from their newborn baby.

All over the UK, the Government has made significant investments in funding the area except for Northern Ireland, according to the charity. 

“In Northern Ireland, means that up to 4,600 live births could be affected within a year. If untreated perinatal mental illnesses can have a devastating impact on women, babies and families.”