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Perinatal mental health services focus on the prevention, detection and management of mental health problems that occur during the perinatal period – pregnancy and the first year after birth. Specialised perinatal mental health services are provided by the NHS, whilst health visitors have a specific remit to assess maternal mental health and refer to support services. There is also a contractual requirement for GPs to offer a maternal postnatal consultation at six to eight weeks after birth which should focus on the mother’s physical and mental health.

The NHS Long Term plan (January 2019) set out ambitions to improve maternal mental health care, including a commitment for a further 24,000 women to be able to access specialist perinatal mental health care by 2023/24. It also requires that specialist care is available from preconception to 24 months after birth, which will provide an extra year of support. 

Concerns have been raised about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on maternal mental health. There is evidence that new mothers have experienced poor maternal mental health during the pandemic. The majority of health visits during the first wave were carried out virtually, and there were concerns that many vulnerable new mothers and children were not identified. 

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