Bedford among first areas to trial new NHS maternal mental health service

2024

Bedford Borough has been chosen to be among the first areas in England to introduce a pilot scheme to offer maternal mental health services to women from next April.

The new service is being piloted from April 2021 in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes to help women who are experiencing psychological difficulties following pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal loss, as well as birth trauma and women who have a fear of childbirth (tokophobia).

Bedford Borough, which falls within the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System (ICS), has been successfully selected as one of the first to introduce the new Maternal Mental Health Service, as part of a testing phase taking place in all regions of England through 2021/22.

The bid involved a joined-up approach by East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL), which provide mental health services across the area, working in partnership with voluntary and community organisations, commissioners, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Milton Keynes University Hospital, maternity services and health visitors.

It has also seen substantial patient engagement and co-production, working with local mums to work out the best approach.

Around one in four women experience mental health problems in pregnancy and during the 24 months after giving birth.

This much-needed service will support women with experience of PTSD following birth trauma, PTSD following perinatal loss (including early miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, termination of pregnancy for any reason, parent infant separation at birth due to safeguarding concerns), and severe fear of childbirth (tokophobia).

An example of a woman who might benefit from this service would be a mother who had a very traumatic delivery during the birth of her child who is now three-years-old. She would like to have more children but is terrified of giving birth. She would be referred to the Maternal Mental Health Service team, where tokophobia (severe fear of childbirth) and PTSD could be assessed and treated.

Maxine Obeng, Assistant Director for the ELFT Bedfordshire and Luton Maternal Mental Health Service, said: “We are really excited to be one of the first Integrated care systems to introduce this new service.

“The foundations for this new service are built on partnership working and co-production with mums throughout so we are able to collaboratively plan, develop and deliver care that best supports their needs.”

CNWL’s Perinatal Clinical Nurse Manager in Milton Keynes, Gloria Aldridge 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.”

Ultimately, these new services will integrate maternity, reproductive health and psychological therapy for women experiencing mental health difficulties directly arising from, or related to, the maternity experience, in all areas of England by 2023/24.

For more information about these new services, please email elizabeth.munday1@nhs.net

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