22 November 2021

100 people from across north east London attended the launch of a new maternal mental health service on Thursday 18 November.

Attendees were told that the new service is there to provide specific support for people experiencing psychological distress related to miscarriage, medical termination, neonatal death or stillbirth.

Ocean (which stands for Offering Compassionate and Emotional Support for those living through birth trauma and loss), is a joint service provided by the East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust (HUHFT) and Maternity Mates.

Leading up to the launch, the organisers consulted an ethnically diverse group of people from across the whole of north east London, all of whom had experienced birthing traumas.

Understanding the experience of an ethnically diverse population is especially important. Studies show that black and brown-skinned people who give birth are four times more likely to experience an incident of maternal morbidity compared to the general population.

One young couple taking part described what happened when their baby boy died in the antenatal period.

They explained how their experience showed to them why a specialist birth trauma service should exist – to enable staff with the therapeutic know-how to respond to such life-changing experiences sensitively and practically.

The launch saw perinatal health professionals from all the trusts involved describe how the new service will work, who it is aimed at supporting and how people can access it.

They explained how Ocean will ensure people can access both specially trained perinatal health professionals as well people who are experts by experience - for guidance, support and advice.

Ocean is one of 26 new NHS nationwide hubs that bring together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapies under one roof as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Ocean will provide support for individuals experiencing psychological distress:

  • Related to miscarriage, medical termination, neonatal death and stillbirth;
  • After news of foetal abnormality during pregnancy, and after foeticide or medical termination;
  • Directly related to and following traumatic birth experience;
  • Stemming from their perinatal experience. This may include assisted pregnancy, IVF, or LGBTQ+;
  • Arising from significant fear or phobia related specifically to pregnancy and childbirth, for example fear of giving birth, undergoing examinations;
  • Related to parent-infant separation taking place during the first year after birth due to children’s social care involvement.


Justine Cawley, Chair of the NEL Perinatal Network and Maternity Mental Health Service Pilot Project Lead for North East London said: 

"On behalf of everyone that took part in the OCEAN launch - thank you.
"It is an honour to lead a team of such highly skilled and motivated practitioners.
"Crucially, OCEAN puts people with lived experience at the centre of the decision-making process. This is because they know what it feels to live with the impact of birth trauma and their expertise and knowledge is crucial in the development of this service and knowing how we can support people onto a path of recovery."
The ELFT OCEAN Service page for East London is here.
The Ocean Service for Bedfordshire & Luton, also run by ELFT, had it’s online launch in November & service details can be found here.