One in five women will suffer mental illness during pregnancy or year after birth, says Suffolk lecturer

Women may not disclose when they are feeling mentally unwell out of fear of having their children ta

Women may not disclose when they are feeling mentally unwell out of fear of having their children taken away, an Ipswich conference was told - Credit: PA

“We must talk about maternal mental health, it could save lives.”

These were the words of Kevin Moran, a lecturer in mental health nursing at the University of Suffolk and a self-professed feminist, as he addressed a women’s health conference in Ipswich on Monday.

One in five women will have a mental health concern during pregnancy or the first year after giving birth, Mr Moran said, while 12% of partners will have a psychological issue ignored throughout the same period.

The problem costs £8.1billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK, with 72% of this bill spent on dealing with the adverse effects suffered by the child.

Mr Moran urged professionals working the field of obstetrics to make it OK for their patients to talk about mental health openly and honestly.

Women may not want to disclose what is going on in their head out of fear of having their children taken away, Mr Moran said.

The conference heard that troublesome births can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder in mothers for a long period of time afterwards.

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“Quite often from a midwife’s point of view it could be the birth is quite traumatic but there has been a positive outcome,” Mr Moran said. “This kind of knock-on effect from a traumatic birth can go on many years and affect women’s physical wellbeing and their desire to have further children in the future.”

Helen Jackson, a psychiatric nurse with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and based at West Suffolk Hospital, also spoke on the topic during the event.

A new mother and baby unit (MBU) is opening in Norfolk next year for women with serious mental health problems to stay as an inpatient with their newborn.

Ms Jackson said this was desperately needed in East Anglia. The nearest WBU to West Suffolk Hospital is currently in Chelmsford and Ms Jackson said she had previously been forced to take a new mother suffering from psychosis to a different part of the country to get care with her baby by her side as there was a long waiting list at the Essex ward.

Mr Moran said: “I think it is essential that we have a regional, accessible MBU. We need to get away from separating the mother and baby where we can.”

• NSFT is also launching a new perinatal service later this summer for mothers to get mental health support from clinics at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals