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Thousands of mothers left to cope alone with mental illness

While up to one in five mothers have problems such as postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder linked to childbirth, many are going untreated because specialist NHS care for them is so limited and the “gap” in help so wide, the research found.

The secret report, the first in-depth audit of how much care there is for maternal mental illness, found that in many areas of England, services are patchy, and in many others there are none at all.

Despite receiving the document in May 2017, neither Health Education England, the NHS agency that commissioned it, nor NHS England, which paid for the report, has published it, prompting concern among doctors that both are embarrassed by its conclusions.

Women who are struggling with mental health problems face a postcode lottery and sometimes long delays in getting help, and the NHS has very few staff able to treat their problems, the 52-page report said.

Some women who need inpatient psychiatric treatment in a mother and baby unit have to travel more than 30 miles from their home area to get a place, because England only has 15 such units, which have 115 beds between them.

Between 10% and 20% of women who give birth develop some form of mental illness, ranging from anxiety and depression to more complex conditions such as PTSD and psychosis. With about 665,000 births a year in England, this means 66,500-133,000 women a year develop problems. More

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