New mental health guidance launched for mothers-to-be and new mothers

Press release
19 November 2018

New advice on perinatal mental health services for women, their partners and their families has been launched today by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in partnership with NHS England and Health Education England. 

The ‘Building Capacity, psychiatry leadership in perinatal mental health services’ project has released a new set of perinatal mental health leaflets written jointly by perinatal psychiatrists, women with lived experience of perinatal mental illness, and their partners. 

The information in the leaflets helps women to develop a better understanding of mental health problems in the perinatal period and specific treatments. It also supports decision-making about the use of medications in pregnancy and breastfeeding by helping women weigh up the risks and benefits of taking certain medications. 

Partners trying to better understand a woman’s mental health problems can also find advice in the new leaflets, offering guidance on what they can do to help, and also how to make sure they have support for themselves and their families.

The leaflets are evidence-based and provide expert advice in simple, easy to read language. They cover the complexity of issues impacting women in the perinatal period from explaining what perinatal services are in a community setting and what is a mother and baby unit, and when and why a woman might to referred to it. 

They look at the scope and range of perinatal mental health problems including

One in five women will experience a mental health problem during their pregnancy and in the first year after birth, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common.

As well as being crucial to new mothers, newborns and their families, perinatal services, alongside other treatments for common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, can play an important role in ensuring mental health is integrated into overall healthcare at the earliest possible stage of life.

Dr Liz McDonald, Clinical Lead for the ‘Building Capacity’ project at the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: "These leaflets demonstrate our desire and commitment to ensure that we are communicating in a clear, sensitive and understandable way with women and their families about the many issues that underlie maternal mental health.

"We hope that the leaflets empower women to seek further advice, help and support with any concerns they may have when planning a pregnancy, while pregnant or in the year after giving birth."  

Dr Giles Berrisford is Associate National Clinical Director for Perinatal Mental Health for NHS England “We've been working with RCPsych and in collaboration with mental health trusts to build capacity and capability in specialist perinatal mental health services. We now want to make sure mums and their families know what help they can get when they need it; and these helpful leaflets explain exactly how they can do that.”

Notes for editors

About the Royal College of Psychiatrists

  1. We are the professional medical body responsible for supporting over 18,000 psychiatrists in the UK and internationally. 
  2. We set standards and promote excellence in psychiatry and mental healthcare. 
  3. We lead, represent and support psychiatrists nationally and internationally to governments and other agencies.
  4. We aim to improve the outcomes of people with mental illness, and the mental health of individuals, their families and communities. We do this by working with patients, carers and other organisations interested in delivering high quality mental health services.

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