NEW and expectant mums will still have access to specialist mental health services thanks to a funding boost, NHS England has confirmed.

A new perinatal service launched last year will continue to provide women with professional perinatal mental health support during pregnancy and in the year after birth.

During pregnancy and in the year after birth women can be affected by a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and postnatal psychotic disorders. These are collectively called perinatal mental illnesses.

Sheena Cumiskey, chief executive, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and senior responsible officer for the mental health programme of the Cheshire & Merseyside Health & Care Partnership said: “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.

“The additional funding, which we have successfully bid for, will allow us to continue to deliver and build on this incredibly vital service for women across Cheshire and Merseyside.”

Through collaborative working initiated by the mental health programme of the Cheshire & Merseyside Health & Care Partnership, a Cheshire Merseyside Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service was established.

The service is delivered by three mental health trusts – Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Specialist community perinatal mental health teams can offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.

Teams can be made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nursery nurses and administrative staff, who all work together to provide a comprehensive service to mums, depending on what their individual needs are.

Rooted in strong partnership and collaborative working, the service is delivered across the Cheshire and Merseyside footprint.

The specialist service started in November 2017 and so far 747 women have been seen.

Dr Kieran Murphy, medical director, NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside) said: "As a GP, I have seen first-hand the affects that mental ill health can have on individuals and their families.

"Having a baby should be joyful and full of excitement, but all too often it can be a time of worry and distress that can have a detrimental effect of both mum and baby’s health.

“The innovative service delivered across Cheshire and Merseyside is having an immediate impact in our communities. This top quality service has led directly to life saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering.”

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 can play an important role in ensuring mental health is integrated into overall healthcare at the earliest possible stage of life.