Margaret Reid from Forfar submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament after witnessing her sister’s traumatic experience with postpartum psychosis, which developed after giving birth to a baby girl.
She recovered at a specialist mother and baby unit (MBU) in Livingston. However a relapse saw her sectioned in Dundee’s Carseview Centre — without her child. It emerged that mothers in Scotland can only be referred to MBUs in the first year after giving birth, and that both centres of excellence are in the central belt.
Margaret’s petition calls for the Scottish Government to grant an extension of that MBU time limit, and to develop another centre in the north east.
She said: “I want to make a change because it is so wrong for women that unwell with their mental health not to get specialised treatment."
Her petition was introduced to Holyrood’s public participation and petitions committee for the first time recently, where MSPs backed its acceptance and agreed early action.
They will now write to the Scottish Government to explore whether any action was taken after an inquiry into perinatal mental health in 2021, which backed an extension and highlighted “significant inconsistencies in accessibility of MBUs across different NHS board areas and the lack of provision in the north of Scotland.”
Jackson Carlaw, convener, said: “It does seem a very arbitrary thing to determine that, at the age of one, irrespective of the personal circumstances of the individual concerned, that the availability to be treated…disappears.”
North East region Scottish Conservative MSP Tess White gave evidence to the committee.
She said: “Maggie’s sister couldn’t be admitted to an MBU because her baby was too old. Instead, she was sectioned at Carseview. Maggie shared that her sister was 'frightened, confused, and very, scared' – it was a truly traumatic experience and she was also separated from her baby. For many mothers with mental ill-health, the 12-month mark is a precipice where the nature of support changes or falls away. It shouldn’t be like that.”
Ms White added: “In the North East, no health authority is any closer to establishing a mother and baby unit whilst research from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance shows that women outside the Central Belt are missing out on the highest standard of specialist perinatal mental health services.”