New and expectant fathers are to be offered mental health checks and treatment if their partner is suffering anxiety, psychosis or post-natal depression as part of an expansion of perinatal mental health services under the new NHS long term plan.
The help on offer could include peer-support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family and parenting interventions in specialist community perinatal mental health settings or dads could be referred to a leading psychological talking therapy programme.
NHS England says there is growing evidence of the mental health risk new and expectant fathers face. In the first six months after the birth of a baby, estimates put the prevalence rates of anxiety and depression symptoms in men at up to one in 10, while one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
Dr Giles Berrisford is associate national clinical director for perinatal mental health for NHS England said: “Mental illnesses are cruel and they seem doubly cruel when they affect parents making that transition into family life. The expansion of perinatal mental health services with specialised community and inpatient beds helps to ensure mums with severe perinatal mental illnesses receive the help they need, when they need it. It is essential to support those people who care for these mums the most – their partners. This targeted support will help to achieve this.”
Under the NHS long term plan, NHS England says it will have specialist community perinatal mental health teams covering the whole country by April next year, offering evidence-based psychiatric and psychological assessments and treatment for women with moderate to severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.
The health service has also pressed ahead with plans to open four new, eight-bedded mother and baby units (MBUs) in Kent, Lancashire, Devon and East Anglia, which will provide specialist care and support to mothers in parts of the country where access has historically been a problem.
NHS England plans to expand the current mother and baby unit bed capacity by 49% so there would be more than 160 beds for severely mentally unwell mothers to receive specialist care with their babies across England.