One in five women will experience a mental health problem during or just after pregnancy
New and expectant mothers in England will be able to access help with mental health problems more easily within the next year, according to NHS England.
More than £20m will be spent on services in underserved parts of the country.
The announcement follows commitments to improve the help offered to mothers by both the former Prime Minister David Cameron and more recently, Theresa May.
This new funding builds on £40m committed in 2016.
One in five women will experience a perinatal mental health problem, loosely defined as one that occurs either during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth.
The most common problem is depression or anxiety, but perinatal problems include a wide range of conditions.
The NHS advises that if left untreated, they can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman and her family, as well as long-standing effects on children’s emotional, social and cognitive development.
But as recently as 2014, services were extremely patchy in England, with only 3% of the country judged to offer good access to care.
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In 2016, NHS England announced that £40m would be spent on more nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists to provide help to mothers and families both in the home and in maternity units.
Teams can also include social workers, occupational therapists and nursery nurses.
So far more than 7,000 women are believed to have accessed specialist help through new or expanded services.
Health service bosses say the release of a further £23m should mean that by April next year, pregnant women and new mums across the whole of England are able to access specialist care and support.
Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England, says that mental ill health doesn’t discriminate.
“It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why we are absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.
“What we are now starting to see is evidence-based NHS services growing in parts of the country where there used to be limited or no provision at all.”
Prof Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, also welcomed the new funding.
“We are delighted to have been able to work closely with NHS England and Health Education England to help deliver the much-needed perinatal psychiatric workforce of the future,” she said.
Mental health problems can affect the whole family, not just mums
“That 100% of the psychiatrists who completed our perinatal bursary scheme now have, or will have, perinatal consultant psychiatric jobs in their local areas is fantastic.
“This, together with the new wave of targeted funding, will help ensure that new and expectant mums will be able access specialist perinatal community services in every part of England by April 2019.”
Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, said the new funding could make a big difference to many women.
“Mumsnet’s campaign for Better Postnatal Care has highlighted the breadth of perinatal mental health vulnerabilities, and has shown how many women struggle on with symptoms that make them feel miserable – or worse.
“Extra provision in this crucial area is so important and we hope it makes a real difference in supporting pregnant women and new mothers.”