New service to support mothers who suffer the loss of their baby

Northwick Park Hospital.

Northwick Park Hospital. - Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

A new service being piloted in northwest London will help women who struggle after losing a baby or experience birth trauma.

The Maternal Mental Health Service (MMHS) will help women who experience psychological difficulties following pregnancy loss, still birth and neonatal loss, as well as birth trauma and women who have a fear of childbirth - tokophobia.

The project, which has received funding for a trial, will begin at West Middlesex University Hospital and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital before expanding to St Mary’s and Hillingdon Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and then Northwick Park Hospital in late 2021.

Jointly led by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) and West London NHS Trust (WLT) and in partnership with the North West London Local Maternity System (LMS), the MMHS will help around 350 women each year access specialist support.

The service will offer women a combination of psychological therapy, specialist midwifery input and peer support. There will be a particular focus on women whose early life experiences make them more vulnerable to mental health difficulties.

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CNWL’s perinatal service lead Devina Vencatasawmy said: “This is fantastic news. For far too long a large number of women have not been able to access the help they needed in adequate time. While there is a long-standing and positive relationship between maternity and mental health services, there is a gap in care.”

“This proposed new service will build on the current offer and work towards reducing the impact of birth-related trauma on women and their families.”

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More than £700,000 is being put forward by NHS England and NHS Improvement for the pilot; creating new posts including clinical psychologists, specialist midwives and peer support roles.

Around 1,500 women with serious and long-term mental health needs are seen in existing perinatal mental health services per year across both CNWL and WLT. Around 2,145 women each year are provided with support through a combination of specialist midwifery, consultant midwifery, and obstetric-led clinics in maternity services.

However, the trusts say a significant number of women with psychological needs resulting from their maternity experience need more focused support provided by specialists in a timely manner. The development of MMHS will address a gap in provision, which the NHS Long Term Plan seeks to fill across all areas of England by 2023/24. 

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