More than 60 per cent of women with perinatal depression who are admitted to psychiatric hospital end up on a mixed-sex psychiatric ward – usually without their baby.
This is according to a mental health charity survey of 148 women who had depression just before or after giving birth.
A report by Mind, based on the survey, also quoted one study last year in the Psychiatric Bulletin journal which found that 12 per cent of NHS trusts still admit mothers and babies to general mixed-sex adult psychiatric wards.
A government document, entitled Safety Privacy and Dignity in Mental Health Units, has previously specified the “clear objective” of ending mixed sex accommodation in 95% of health authority areas by 2002.
Mind’s report, entitled Out of the blue? Motherhood and Depression, states that at least one in six women experience mental distress during pregnancy or after birth.
It said 25% of all maternal deaths are linked to mental health problems
Mind also said its survey revealed “an alarming shortfall in services, failures in diagnosis and lack of treatment options for these women.”
The survey found over two thirds of women had to wait a month or more for treatment, while 1 in 10 had to wait over a year. Seventy five per cent of the women were given medication, with the remainder offered counselling.
Mind’s makes a raft of recommendations, including that all maternity services have a lead clinician with an interest in perinatal mental health.
Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer, said: “Far too many women are placed on general psychiatric hospitals without their baby because of a critical shortage of specialist mother and baby units.”
He added: “The gaps in knowledge, provision and care for these vulnerable women must be addressed now.”
In response, Professor Louis Appleby, the government’s national director for mental health, told the BBC that the government recognised the need to improve access to care and treatment for new mothers with depression.
He pointed to two new pilot therapy centres in Doncaster and Newham, London, which, he said, would improve women’s access to therapy.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is also to produce national guidelines for treating postnatal depression early next year.
But shadow health minister Tim Loughton said: “The findings of [Mind’s] report flies in the face of the government’s recent announcement that they would make talking therapies more widely available.
“It is completely unacceptable that 10% of these women who present to their doctor with mental health problems have to wait over a year to receive treatment.”