Pregnant women and new mums should have access to high-quality mental health care, including counselling and psychotherapy.

Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, said it was “heart-breaking” to hear they were missing out on vital services as she pledged that BACP would continue working to ensure pregnant women and new mums have access to funded counselling provision.

She was responding to a new study by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) – which we’re part of.

The report, Specialist perinatal mental health care in the UK 2023, found:

  • Around 1 in 5 women experience mental health problems during or after pregnancy and suicide remains the leading cause of direct maternal death in the first postnatal year. It is therefore critical that those with the most severe and complex illnesses can access specialist care close to home.
  • In the last decade, the overall provision and quality of specialist perinatal mental health services have improved but progress across the UK has been uneven.
  • According to Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) research, this is largely due to workforce planning and shortage issues, made worse by insecure or late allocation of funds.
  • At a time when demands on mental health services are so high, it is vital that commitment to maternal mental health remains, and the improvements in care, which we now know can be made, must be sustained.

Potentially life-saving counselling services

Jo said: “Every pregnant woman and new mother should have access to high-quality accessible mental health services - including counselling and psychotherapy - delivered by trained professionals at a time and place that best suits them.

“It’s heart-breaking to hear that for some women they feel there is no other option but suicide while pregnant or after their baby is born.

“At the same time it’s frustrating to repeatedly hear that, although money is available, there continues to be a workforce shortage around providing accessible and timely therapeutic services, such as counselling, to women in desperate need.

“Services must be provided in GP surgeries, family hubs, community-based third sector services, faith organisations – anywhere where women can easily and safely access them.

“The policy team at BACP continues to work with NHS commissioners and the like, placing the counselling and psychotherapy workforce at the forefront of externally commissioned services, ensuring women have better access to potentially life-saving, funded counselling services.”


Consultant perinatal psychiatrist Dr Alain Gregoire, MMHA President, said: “Over the last ten years, there has been a growing understanding of the importance of specialist care for maternal mental health, which has led to welcome improvements across the UK.

“However, it’s crucial that this momentum and commitment is maintained.

“National and local decision-makers must ensure that allocated resources reach clinical services to ensure that mothers, babies, and families can access the care they need.

“We must grasp this exceptional opportunity to make a real and lasting impact on the lives of women, babies, and future generations.”