Improving mental health for new and expectant parents

Mother and baby unit artist impression
Mother and baby unit artist impression

A brand new specialist mental health unit to support new and expectant parents across Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales has been announced.

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCHUB), NHS England and NHS Wales are working together on a proposal to transform training centre, Churton House on the Countess of Chester Health Park, into a specialist eight bedded unit to support perinatal mothers, babies and their families.

The proposed unit will work alongside the existing regional Community Perinatal Mental Health Services who already care for thousands of women every year.

How does this improve services for patients?

It is estimated that one in four women experience mental health problems in pregnancy and during the 24 months after giving birth. The consequences of not accessing high-quality perinatal mental health care are estimated to cost the NHS and social care £1.2 billion per year.

Sarah Hull, CWP operational lead for Perinatal Mental Health Services, says: “The time around pregnancy and the early days of parenting is such a special time but it can also make some women vulnerable to new or relapses of existing mental health problems.

“If admission to hospital is required, previously local women have had to travel to other specialist units or face being separated from their baby, which can create further issues with bonding and attachment. For women with family and partners this can also make maintaining contact with the new baby challenging and it is particularly difficult for any siblings who are separated from their mother at the same time as accepting the new baby into their lives.”

The new unit will support new and expectant mothers in a therapeutic environment which has been purposefully designed for people experiencing maternal mental health difficulties, such as post-natal depression, psychosis or a relapse of an existing mental health condition.

What's next?

Tim Welch, CWP chief executive, says: “This is an extremely exciting development for our local population and will greatly improve families’ experience of care at this critical time. We are really looking forward to developing the plans in partnership with local families and our clinical teams who are the experts in what outstanding care should look like.

“Our ambition is to develop a centre of excellence for perinatal mental health services that can offer specialist advice to other professionals like GPs, health visitors, social workers and midwives. By offering wider therapies and support to partners of women accessing our services, we also hope to support the 5-10% of partners who also experience mental health difficulties during the perinatal period.”

Plans for the new unit include a nursery, sensory room and multiple lounges to support quiet time and family visits. Having access to outside space is central to the plans with two garden areas and a walking pram loop, with families set to benefit from being based on the edge of the Countess Country Park.

The unit is set to open in 2024. Find out more at