Hundreds of women across B&NES affected by severe and complex mental health problems during pregnancy and early motherhood are being offered specialist help and support.
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust has been commissioned to provide a new Specialist Community Perinatal Mental Health Service across the region.
The service has been partially up and running since 2019, but from the start of March became fully operational.
Maria Cox, BSW Specialist Perinatal Community Team Manager, said: “This new service will provide much needed specialist support.
“Perinatal mental illness affects hundreds of mothers, fathers and children across B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire every year, and the problems it causes can be severe and even life-threatening.
“This service will not only offer a lifeline to mums at risk of developing severe mental health problems during the perinatal period but will also have a positive impact on their children and families.
“It is fantastic that we will now be able to offer this specialist help when it’s needed most.”
Perinatal mental health problems occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child.
They are estimated to affect up to 600 women a year across the local area, and cover a wide range of conditions. If left untreated, they can have significant and long-lasting effects on mothers, fathers and families.
Previously, those affected by such conditions across the region were at risk of falling through care gaps because of a lack of specialist help.
Now, the new Specialist Community Perinatal Mental Health Service will offer targeted support from a dedicated team who are all perinatal mental health specialists.
Holly Reynolds, a mum of two who experienced perinatal mental health issues after the birth of her daughter, said the new service will provide invaluable support for those in need of help.
She said: “I became quite poorly very quickly after I had my daughter and found it very difficult to access the help I needed.
“This new service will help so much and just knowing it is available will do so much to ease the minds of a lot of mums with underlying mental health conditions.”
Services, which will include psychiatric and psychological assessment and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period, will be based at a service hub in Chippenham with clinics held in Paulton, Swindon and Salisbury.
Patients will be referred to the service via a GP, midwife, health visitor or other health professional.
Lucy Baker, Director of Service Delivery for Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said: “This service will mean that a greater number of mums and families will be provided with the robust support, care, information and advice they need.
“Early intervention and prevention and better joined-up care will also have a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of mums, families and babies and help to ensure that children have the best start in life.”
The service has been set up thanks to over £1 million in funding from NHS England, following a successful bid from the BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership.