Norfolk leads the way in mental ill health during pregnancy as union calls for more support nationally

Stock photo of a pregnant woman. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Stock photo of a pregnant woman. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A trade union representing the country's midwives has called for more to be done for women's mental health in pregnancy.

But it is hoped a pioneering eight-bed unit for new mothers with serious mental health problems in Norwich could help buck the trend.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) spoke out after a survey by charity PANDAS found midwives and health visitor's face problems when dealing with pre and postnatal mental illnesses.

Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the RCM, said: 'Support for women with pregnancy related mental health problems is improving, but there is still a long way to go.

MORE: New £2.5m specialist perinatal service will be a 'game changer' for women with mental health problems'We are still short of specialist maternal mental health midwives, specialist mother and baby units and specialist services within the community where women with mental health problems can initially be supported to avoid their condition worsening. This is despite the government's commitments to improve services for these women and this survey shows that they need to do much more.'

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However in Norwich, one of just four mother and baby units commissioned by NHS England across the country is due to open in 2019.

MORE: First dedicated mental health unit for mothers and babies to open in the region - one of just four new units in the countryThe unit will be staffed by a variety of trained specialists including peer support workers will also offer support and practical help.

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And it will take referrals from across the region and country.

Run by the region's mental health trust - Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - it will complement NSFT's new Community Perinatal Mental Health Service, which will cater for people with conditions such as severe post-natal depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis, and will also offer pre-conception advice about medication and the support needed by woman with a pre-existing mental condition wishing to conceive.

MORE: New unit to open in Norwich for mothers with mental health problemsBohdan Solomka, NSFT's medical director, said: 'We are really pleased to have received national funding for a specialist Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), which will help us ensure mothers and their new babies can get the best possible care closer to home.

'The MBU will provide vital and potentially life-changing care to new mothers with serious mental health problems, and will mean they can receive the psychiatric support they need without having to travel elsewhere.

'Until the inpatient unit opens in January 2019, we will provide treatment in the community from January 2018.

'The unit will ensure mums and their babies can stay together while the mother receives care for conditions such as severe postnatal depression, serious anxiety disorders and postpartum psychosis, which causes hallucinations and can severely disrupt perception and behaviour. It will also accept women in late pregnancy who require acute psychiatric inpatient care.

'The design of the service and the unit has been developed with local service users and our staff.'

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