The Western Isles is one of the areas that has been called on to improve access to perinatal mental health services as part of new campaign.
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance had launched the #everyonesbusiness campaign with the aim to improve the service available to new mothers across the country.
Perinatal mental health refers to a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and the first year after birth. Examples include antenatal depression, postnatal depression, maternal obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder .
It is estimated 1 in 10 women develop mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having a baby, and 7 in 10 women hide or underplay the severity of it.
Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said almost half of women in the UK have no access to community specialist perinatal mental health services.
“We would be horrified if there were no maternity hospitals, and general surgeons were doing caesarean sections in large parts of the country. Equitable access to specialist care for women’s mental health at this time is just as important.”
A spokesperson for NHS Western Isles said that while there is no specialist perinatal mental health team on-island, the board have a partnership arrangement with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, so that women needing specialist services can access help and support from a specialist centre.
“Locally, our midwives source support for any of our pregnant women via our local mental health team; indeed there are strong links to a wide range of support services depending on the needs of the women,” she said.
“In areas such as the Western Isles, it is not possible to provide a full range of specialist services (whether mental health or physical health) on island, in particular in areas where specialist healthcare professionals would be unable to maintain their skill and competency due to very small numbers of patients.”
Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist Dr Roch Cantwel, of the Scottish Perinatal Mental Health Forum, explained that from a low base where very few services existed for mental illness in pregnancy or after childbirth 10-15 years ago, Scotland has made big strides in developing these services.
“There are now two specialist mother and baby units which can admit the most severely ill women, along with their babies, where that is needed,” Dr Cantwell said. “Between them, they cover almost all areas of Scotland. Scotland is also the only country in the world to have the right for women to be admitted with their baby enshrined in mental health legislation. However, development of community specialised services has been slower and more patchy.”
She continued: “The Western Isles has an arrangement with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to ensure that, if a woman needs inpatient care, she can be admitted to the West of Scotland Mother and Baby Unit in Glasgow for her treatment.
“There are particular challenges however for areas of Scotland which are more rural and sparsely populated, and a ‘one size fits all’ model of specialised community services is not appropriate.
“As the Board response indicates, links have been made with our service here in Glasgow and the Western Isles Board arranged a two day multidisciplinary training course on recognising and managing perinatal mental illness, delivered by members of the specialist service in Glasgow, in 2013 for staff from maternity, mental health and primary care. The service here is also available to local health professionals to provide advice when requested.”
The Scottish Perinatal Mental Health Forum is a grouping of professionals, voluntary agencies and service user/carer organisations which aims to promote knowledge of perinatal mental illness and the need for service development in Scotland. Together with NSPCC Scotland, the group is currently undertaking an in-depth survey of services for women with perinatal mental illness throughout Scotland, which will take into account the range of services (statutory and voluntary) available for women and their families, highlighting where gaps exist in current provision. This survey should be available by the end of this year.
Dr Cantwell added: “I think this will give us a very accurate picture of the areas we need to focus on in order to ensure that all pregnant and postnatal women in Scotland have equal access to specialist advice and treatment should they need it.”