Disappointing to read, in the Guardian, that services to new mothers are being shut down as the result of budget cuts to the NHS and local authorities.
The services being cut, according to the report, are “breastfeeding classes, home visits from midwives and baby cafes’” – informal groups for mothers where they can receive expert breastfeeding support
Children’s centres are being closed down, the story continues, and funding is being stopped for peer support services.
You can see why it’s happening. When budgets are being slashed, these kinds of services are regarded as nice-to-have rather than a priority. Councils have a statutory duty to provide refuse collection and care for the elderly, but they are not obliged to help mothers struggling with a new baby.
But in the long term, cuts to these types of service end up costing us all more. Many new mothers suffer from mental health problems (10-15% have postnatal depression and, at a conservative estimate, 1-2% have post-traumatic stress disorder), and support services can help see them through the difficult early days. Being at home with a new baby can be a lonely, frustrating and frankly miserable business. And improving the mental wellbeing of mothers also helps the wellbeing of their babies, of course.
It’s not as if there are other easy alternatives. Women with PND or PTSD usually have a long wait to see a counsellor on the NHS: specialist counsellors who understand the particular problems arising from a traumatic birth are particularly hard to come by.
I don’t particularly blame councils for cutting these services: the axe has to fall somewhere. But it does seem sad that as a society, investment in the wellbeing of mothers and their babies comes near the bottom of our list of priorities.
(The image above is courtesy of Jomphong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)