Birth Trauma Association supports call for better mental health support for new mothers
The BTA welcomes the analysis by MBRRACE-UK of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths, which shines a spotlight on the serious issue of the mental health of women following childbirth. The report finds that approximately a quarter of maternal deaths between six weeks and a year after birth are related to mental health problems.
We wholeheartedly agree with Professor Marian Knig ht’s statement that there are “clear opportunities for improving mental healthcare for women during and after pregnancy.” We particularly agree that more needs to be done to identi fy women experiencing mental health difficulties and that different health professionals need to be able to join up the dots.
Currently no screening is offered for post-traumat ic stress disorder (PTSD) in new mothers, even though, at a conservative estimate, 10,000 women experience the condition each year after giving birth. Our members also tell us that GPs are often ill-informed about the condition, and that there are long waiting lists for the two treatments reco mmended by NICE: trauma-focused CBT and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) . This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
We also firmly believe, however, that much more could be done to prevent mental health problems arising in the first place. Maureen Treadwell, the BT A’s research officer, said: “New mothers suffering from PTSD have given us harrowing accounts of ph ysically traumatising births, including severe haemorrhages or third-degree tears. Our members freque ntly tell us that the trauma of a difficult birth was compounded by poor communication or insensitive and even dismissive staff. Some report having their requests for pain relief ignored for hours. We believe that this insensitivity would be unacceptable anywhere else in the NHS, and that all maternity units should provide care that is focused on the needs of women.”