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  1. ITV Report

Teesside MP calls for improved mental health care services for new mothers

Labour MP for Stockton South Dr David Williams is calling for greater mental health care provision for pregnant and new mothers. Credit: ITV News

A Teesside MP is calling for the government to introduce a separate six week check for new mothers to improve their mental health.

Dr Paul Williams, the MP for Stockton South, will hold a debate in Westminster on Thursday to examine the evidence and recommendations for improving services.

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Speaking ahead of the Westminster debate, Dr Williams stressed the importance of mental health care provision for pregnant and new mothers.

He said: "It's important for a woman because if she has undiagnosed mental health problems they can have a massive impact on her life. In the worst cases people have self-harm and suicide.

"It's important for families because mental health problems can lead to family and relationship breakdown."

St George's Park mental health hospital in Morpeth has the North East's only mental health unit for new mothers. Credit: ITV News

ITV Tyne Tees visited the North East's only mother and baby unit at St George's Park mental health hospital in Morpeth.

The Beadnell unit cares for women with a severe mental illness during pregnancy and the first year after having a baby.

Steph Wingfield was admitted to the unit when her son Thomas was six months old. She said her post-natal depression led her to have thoughts of suicide.

She said: "It was like a little click went off and I thought how do I get out of this and the thought was suicide. I remember looking at my curtains and thinking that was the answer.

"I was having thoughts of wanting to throw myself down the stairs. The health visitor would visit all the time and I would say I don't want him.

"The only time I felt really at ease was five minutes before I went to sleep because I knew I didn't have to think about anything."

Steph Wingfield (right) suffered from mental health problems shortly after having her son Thomas. Credit: ITV News

A focus of the unit is to keep families together and avoid any stress-inducing separation. The six-bed unit provides medication and mental health therapy to mothers while keeping them with their babies.

Allison Spiers, ward manager at the unit, said that keeping the families together was an important aspect of the overall care provided.

She said: "It's not just the mums you know. The whole family are effected by mental health problems. We embrace the whole family really.

"That's why we have dads stay sometimes. It's awful seeing them when they first come in, it's really sad but obviously the best part of the job is seeing them reunited with their family when they come to leave."

Steph Wingfield believes it's important to keep families together during the recovery process. Credit: ITV News

NHS England stressed that mental health care provision for pregnant and new mothers was a priority. In 2016 it announced it was investing £365m into improving services and building more care units.

More units are scheduled to open with four expected by the end of 2018.