High cost of poor care for new mothers

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A new report has shown that the ‘shocking’ cost of mental health problems in females during pregnancy and shortly after giving birth is running into billions of pounds.

The study, entitled ‘The costs of perinatal mental health problems’, describes the treatment for those halfway through their pregnancies and for new mothers as ‘patchy’. It claims that the long-term cost linked to all the births during a one-year period exceeds £8bn.

The report, which was compiled by the Centre for Mental Health and the London School of Economics (LSE), argues that by spending £337m per annum, an improvement could be achieved in the care for mothers during their perinatal period, which includes pregnancy and the first year after childbirth, which would bring it in line with the national guidelines standard.

The report which is due to be presented to Parliament tomorrow, forms part of the ‘Everyone’s Business’ campaign which is being led by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) and being funded by Comic Relief.

It stipulates that almost 75% of the costs of treating psychosis, anxiety and depression relates to the effect on the child, rather than the mother. Dealing with these problems costs the NHS around £1.2bn, with other costs, such as loss of earnings.

According to the report, about 50% of the anxiety and depression cases during the perinatal period are not detected at all.

During July, the MMHA released a series of maps indicating that many pregnant women and new mothers across Britain do not have access to specialist mental health services.

The lead author of the report, Annette Bauer from the LSE, said these findings indicate that the mental health of mothers is critical to society and the economy. She said that in order to offer protection for the long-term health of the family, intervention is required to commence prior to childbirth or shortly thereafter as the possible benefits are extremely high and the costs linked to it could be recovered fully within a short period of time.

According to Dr Alain Gregoire, the chairman of MMHA, this issue can be handled.

He stated that perinatal mental health issues are very common and costly. He said it affects up to 20% of females at some stage during their pregnancy or during the year after giving birth. He added that this is a massive public health issue which impact on both the mother and the baby.

He stated that the good news about this is that women can recover fully if given the correct treatment, hence it is important that all women, regardless of where they reside, get the specialist help they require.

Andrea Leadsom, the economic secretary to the treasury, said every baby within the UK deserves to be offered the best possible start in life. She said that the support of perinatal mental health within a parent infant relationship is vital to lifelong happiness and good health for every child.

Image Credit: Hamed Saber

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