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Resources and FAQs – perinatal

On this page, you’ll find more information about perinatal mental health services in London, with answers to key questions about the service.

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme in perinatal mental health

Having a baby can be joyful, exciting, and rewarding.  However, it is also common for pregnant women/birthing people and new mothers or fathers/partners to experience anxiety, depression, or emotional distress.

As many as one in five women/birthing people experience emotional difficulties during pregnancy and in the first year after their baby’s birth. This can happen to anyone.

Every London borough has an IAPT service which offers free, confidential talking therapy for people who have symptoms of anxiety or depression. IAPT stands for ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapy’. They give priority to pregnant women/birthing people and fathers/partners.  This leaflet explains more about the service and the help we can offer you if you need it. For more information click here to access the “Help and emotional support during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby” leaflet.

Support across London

Below you’ll find a list of services available across London.

Mother and baby units in London

Mother and baby units (MBUs) provide specialist care and treatment when a mother is suffering from a mental illness and needs an admission to hospital.

These services allow for the mother and her baby to remain together, supporting their attachment and bonding, while the mother receives the care and treatment she needs to recover from mental illness.

Contact details for London Mother and Baby Units

A range of family focussed interventions are on offer, with staff including psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, nursery nurses and occupational therapists. Women can be admitted from 30 weeks of pregnancy until the end of the first postnatal year.

There are three Mother and Baby Units that cater to the needs of all women and birthing people across London, regardless of where they live.

Community perinatal mental health teams

Community perinatal mental health teams support mothers who are experiencing moderate to severe mental health problems in the perinatal period to recover in the community. They also offer pre-conception advice to women with existing mental health problems who are planning a pregnancy.

They are staffed by a range of professionals and offer family-focused interventions, and work closely with maternity services, health visitors, IAPT, GPs, other community services and third sector organisations.

Support across London

Below you’ll find a list of services available across London.

Guidance for newborn assessment

This document is to provide guidance for health care professionals involved in the care of babies born to women who have taken medication for mental disorders (psychotropic medication) during pregnancy.

Its aim is to optimise and standardise the care of exposed babies and to provide guidance to health professionals (in particular neonatologists, paediatricians and midwives) on the appropriate assessment and management of the risks and needs of the newborn baby.

Any psychotropic medication that has been taken by the mother during her pregnancy and / or delivery should be documented in the baby’s notes. Babies who have been exposed to such medication should undergo a relevant assessment as set out in this document. This assessment will take place in the hospital, birthing unit or home (if home birth). Information on this process should be given to mothers during their pregnancy and at the time of the post-birth assessment, so they can feel confident about their baby’s wellbeing.

Perinatal mental health peer support in London

Perinatal peer support is an active intervention where people use their own experiences to work directly with women/birthing people and their families. Perinatal peer supporters or peer support workers have experienced some form of perinatal mental ill-health and recovery which they draw upon to offer a safe space, a listening ear and support to others going through similar experiences. Accessing peer support during the perinatal period has been shown to have a positive impact on women’s overall health and wellbeing.

There are several peer support options in London provided by both the third sector and the NHS. NHS services such as Community Perinatal and Maternal Mental Health Services provide this support to women with moderate to severe mental ill-health. Women and birthing people can access mental health and emotional wellbeing support flexibly through the third sector.

To help support women and professionals to understand and access peer support, HLP and London’s third sector organisation have developed a directory of organisations that offer perinatal peer support across London.

Third sector organisations working with specific groups

Certain organisations from those already listed above provide support to women with special circumstances:

  • Support in multiple languages – Manor gardens (NCL), Parents in Mind (NEL), Newham Nurture Programme (NEL), Maternity mates (NEL), The Ectopic pregnancy trust (Citywide)
  • Support for women from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds – The motherhood group (SEL), Prosperity’s birth companion (SEL)
  • Support for women in prison – Birth companion (Citywide)
  • Support for women living with HIV – 4M Network (Citywide)
  • Young mothers – YoungMumsAid (SEL)
  • Women in high deprivation – Newham Nurture Programme (NEL)

Listening to experiences and voices

To ensure women and birthing people on the maternity pathway are allowed the opportunity to have their voice heard, a team of women and their families, commissioners and providers work together through Maternity Voice Partnerships (MVP) to review and inform the development of local maternity care. To launch your voice and contribute to developing your local maternity care services, click here to find your local MVP and their contact details.

Support across London

Below you’ll find a list of services available across London.

Best practice toolkit for providing family planning advice to women with a mental illness

This toolkit is designed to offer advice to doctors and informs the multi-disciplinary team of best practice in providing preconception/family planning advice to women with a mental illness. The document contains both information and resources and also recommendations that shift the clinical approach towards a collaborative model of care, using a strengths-based formulation.

Pre-conception advice

Every woman should think about her physical and mental health when planning a pregnancy, to support her health and the health of her future baby. This toolkit aims to provide practitioners supporting women with mental illness with information and resources to help answer the many questions that women and their partners have in relation to this very important decision, such as:

  • Do I have to stop taking my psychiatric medication while pregnant?
  • If so, will I be able to function without it?
  • If I keep taking the medication, what are the risks to my baby?
  • What is the chance of my mental health getting worse?
  • How might my condition and its treatment affect parenting?
  • What are the chances of my mental health affecting my child’s mental health?
  • Are there any risks associated with not treating my condition?
  • What mental health services are available for pregnant women in my area?
  • What kind of support is available after my baby is born?

Ensuring women and their partners are equipped with information and specialist advice when needed, will help them make the choice that is best for them and their family and to avoid rushed decisions that can result in tragic outcomes.