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Poor mental health support during pregnancy risks UK women’s lives

Women’s lives are being put at risk by substandard mental health care during their pregnancy and in the first year after childbirth in most parts of the UK, a report has found.

About one in every five women develops a mental illness at some point during the perinatal period, the stage from pregnancy up to a year after giving birth. However, none of the health and social care boards in Northern Ireland or Wales met the national quality standards created by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Quality Network (PQN).

Maternal deaths due to mental health problems are also increasing, with maternal suicide being the lead cause of deaths in the first year after childbirth. Despite this, the report by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) found that many specialist perinatal mental health services do not receive adequate attention or investment, or meet the quality standard of care.

The minimum standard of care that women, babies and families should receive is defined as PQN standards type 1. In England, only 16% of the specialist perinatal mental health community teams met these standards.

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Source: The Guardian, 2 May 2023


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