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Community perinatal mental health teams and associations with perinatal mental health and obstetric and neonatal outcomes in pregnant women with a history of secondary mental health care in England: a national population-based cohort study.

Lancet Psychiatry 2024 January 24
BACKGROUND: Women with a pre-existing severe mental disorder have an increased risk of relapse after giving birth. We aimed to evaluate associations of the gradual regional implementation of community perinatal mental health teams in England from April, 2016, with access to mental health care and with mental health, obstetric, and neonatal outcomes.

METHODS: For this cohort study, we used the national dataset of secondary mental health care provided by National Health Service England, including mental health-care episodes from April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2019, linked at patient level to the Hospital Episode Statistics, and birth notifications from the Personal Demographic Service. We included women (aged ≥18 years) with an onset of pregnancy from April 1, 2016, who had given birth to a singleton baby up to March 31, 2018, and who had a pre-existing mental disorder, defined as contacts with secondary mental health care in the 10 years immediately before pregnancy. The primary outcome was acute relapse, defined as psychiatric hospital admission or crisis resolution team contact in the postnatal period (first year after birth). Secondary outcomes included any secondary mental health care in the perinatal period (pregnancy and postnatal period) and obstetric and neonatal outcomes. Outcomes were compared according to whether a community perinatal mental health team was available before pregnancy, with odds ratios (ORs) adjusted for time trends and maternal characteristics (adjORs).

FINDINGS: Of 807 798 maternity episodes in England, we identified 780 026 eligible women with a singleton birth, of whom 70 323 (9·0%) had a pre-existing mental disorder. A postnatal acute relapse was found in 1117 (3·6%) of 31 276 women where a community perinatal mental health team was available and in 1745 (4·5%) of 39 047 women where one was unavailable (adjOR 0·77, 95% CI 0·64-0·92; p=0·0038). Perinatal access to any secondary mental health care was found in 9888 (31·6%) of 31 276 women where a community perinatal mental health team was available and 10 033 (25·7%) of 39 047 women where one was not (adjOR 1·35, 95% CI 1·23-1·49; p<0·0001). Risk of stillbirth and neonatal death was higher where a community perinatal mental health team was available (165 [0·5%] of 30 980 women) than where it was not (151 [0·4%] of 38 693 women; adjOR 1·34, 95% CI 1·09-1·66; p=0·0063), as was the risk of a baby small for gestational age (2227 [7·2%] of 31 030 women vs 2542 [6·6%] of 38 762 women; adjOR 1·10, 1·02-1·20; p=0·016), whereas preterm birth risk was lower (3167 [10·1%] of 31 206 women vs 4341 [11·1%] of 38 961; adjOR 0·86, 0·74-0·99; p=0·032).

INTERPRETATION: The regional availability of community perinatal mental health teams reduced the postnatal risk of acute relapse and increased the overall use of secondary mental health care. Community perinatal mental health teams should have close links with maternity services to avoid intensive psychiatric support overshadowing obstetric and neonatal risks.

FUNDING: The National Institute for Health and Care Research.

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