A maternal mental health service in north Cumbria – introduced to improve the minds of expectant and new parents - has reached its first anniversary and is set to continue.

Whether you’re planning, expecting or caring for a new baby, there is often an expectation that you will feel happy and joyful.

However, it can be a challenging time and parents can experience a range of emotional, psychological or mental health difficulties.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, which starts this week, seeks to raise awareness of these difficulties and the range of support available.

Sometimes unexpected events occur during pregnancy and childbirth. For this reason, the Maternal Mental Health Service, aims to help those who have had a traumatic experience related to pregnancy and childbirth; perinatal loss and those who have a fear, anxiety, or phobia associated with pregnancy, childbirth, hospital or medical procedures.

NCIC’s Clinical Lead for the service, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Catherine Parker said: “The service has received a higher than anticipated number of referrals in its first year - 161 referrals were made in total compared to a target of 54 which is 3.5-4% of all births in north Cumbria. Feedback from staff, stakeholders and service users has been very positive.

“We know that for many people having a baby is a happy and exciting time, but sometimes things can happen that feel frightening, distressing and overwhelming. You may not have had the birth you wished to have or your baby may have needed additional medical attention. You may have experienced multiple miscarriages or be grieving for the loss of a baby. Or you may have fears relating to hospitals, which means your pregnancy becomes a very anxious time.”

The team encourages anyone who feels they might need further support to reach out and ask for the help they need. You can request a referral to the Maternal Mental Health Service from a member of your maternity care team, your health visitor or your GP.

Maternal Mental Health Services are part of the NHS Long Term Plan ambition for every region to have a service in place by the end of 2023/24.