Perinatal Mental Health

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Social innovation


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. Perinatal mental illnesses affect at least 10% of women and, if untreated, can have a devastating impact on them and their families. When mothers suffer from these illnesses it increases the likelihood that children will experience behavioural, social or learning difficulties and fail to fulfil their potential. Effective prevention, detection and treatment of perinatal mental illnesses could have a positive impact on the lives of tens of thousands of families and improve the wellbeing, health and achievement of children across the country. If we are to significantly reduce the harm caused by perinatal mental illnesses, a significant change is needed in our universal services so that health professionals are confident in detecting, discussing and dealing with mental illnesses. Mental health needs to be given parity of esteem with physical health in the work of primary care services. Taken together, perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis carry a total long-term cost to society of about £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK. This is equivalent to a cost of just under £10,000 for every single birth in the country. 72% of this cost relates to adverse impacts on the child rather than the mother. Perinatal mental illnesses are a major public health issue that must be taken seriously. Over a fifth of total costs (£1.7 billion) are borne by the public sector, with the bulk of these falling on the NHS and social services (£1.2 billion).The average cost to society of one case of perinatal depression is around £74,000, of which £23,000 relates to the mother and £51,000 relates to impacts on the child. The current provision of services is widely described as patchy, with significant variations in coverage and quality around the country. For example about half of all cases of perinatal depression and anxiety go undetected and many of those which are detected fail to receive evidence based forms of treatment. These conditions can contribute to women not returning to work following maternity leave and then subsequently finding it much harder to make the step from unemployment into the work place.

Creation date: 25/05/2016

Bloc onglets

Bloc 1

Overall objective

To devise and pilot a range of services within local areas to ensure that women who are at risk of, or suffering from, perinatal mental illnesses are given appropriate support at the earliest opportunity. To support women in their return to work.

Bloc 2


There is a dramatic need to improve service provision for this at risk group. This project will: • Devise a new service model following families for a year after birth; • Design whole system workforce education, with a particular focus on GPs • Design improved information for families about the range of services available (potentially via use of an App.) • Increase the availability of peer support. • Design services with a whole family approach, rather than focusing on individuals.

Bloc 3

Expected result

A proven new service delivery model that detects and treats early signs of perinatal mental health conditions. Earlier diagnosis will have cost benefits to the health systems, clear health benefit to the individual and families. The additional spending required is relatively small, and the potential gains are enormous. An investment at this stage should generate long-term savings for public services through improved outcomes for mothers and babies.

Bloc 4

Cross-border added-value

The need to include mental health among the first priorities of the public health agenda has been increasingly recognized in Europe over the past decades. Mental disorders are highly prevalent in Europe and are a major burden on society. There is increasing data proving that positive mental health and well being is a key factor for social cohesion, economic progress and sustainable development in the EU. Services and practice do not always reflect the knowledge of what works in mental health care and treatment. Many countries have limited community-based mental health services and little specialist help for young or elderly people. Joint action between the 2Seas areas is needed.