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Specialist mental health service for new and expectant mums to be expanded


A specialist mental health service for new and expectant mums in North Wales is set to undergo a significant expansion.

Investment in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Perinatal Mental Health Service will ensure that women who experience moderate to severe mental health difficulties during pregnancy or the postnatal year can access specialist support sooner.

Once recruitment of additional staff is complete, the service will be the first in Wales to meet the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ community perinatal standards for staffing.

Perinatal mental health problems affect up to 20 per cent of women during pregnancy and the first postnatal year. They include a range of conditions specifically linked to pregnancy or childbirth, such as perinatal depression, perinatal anxiety, birth trauma, maternal OCD and postpartum psychosis.  Women diagnosed with a mental illness prior to pregnancy are also at increased risk of relapse during the perinatal period.

As well as having an adverse impact on new mums, these conditions can also compromise the emotional and physical well-being of their children and have an impact upon the wider family.

Debbie Griffin, BCUHB’s Perinatal Mental Health Service Manager, said: “Providing timely and effective support to new and expectant mums who are struggling with their mental health is critical not only for their own health, but for the longer-term health and wellbeing of their child.

"We know that the first 1,001 days - from pregnancy through to a child’s second birthday - is a critical window of time that sets the stage for a person’s attachment, intellectual development and lifelong health.

“This investment will enable the expansion of a small, specialist service, relative to the geographical area that the team covers. It will enable us to provide evidence based specialist therapeutic interventions and therapies in a timelier manner, and reduce waiting times for psychological interventions. 

“It will also ensure that we are the first community perinatal mental health service in Wales to meet the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ standards for staffing. This will enable the team to deliver high standards of care with a firm evidence base, ensuring women receive appropriate, timely and proportionate care.

“The service expansion will also enable us to develop our training programme so we can deliver specialist perinatal training to our GP, midwife, health visiting and adult mental health colleagues. This will ensure that all women who are experiencing perinatal mental health issues are identified as early as possible during the perinatal period and receive high quality assessment, intervention and support.”

The expansion has been funded from the Welsh Government’s A Healthier Wales Transformation Fund and BCUHB.

Betsi Health Board are also working with the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee and the Welsh Government to improve inpatient mental health mother and baby unit provision for mothers who live in North Wales.