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Women praise perinatal mental health services

 Participants at the 'Whose Shoes' workshop at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

Participants at the 'Whose Shoes' workshop at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

Two years after the launch of the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Model,  women across the country have spoken about the transformative effects the perinatal mental health services have had on their pregnancies and beyond.

Perinatal mental health disorders are those which complicate pregnancy and the first postnatal year. They include both new-onset and relapse or reoccurrence of pre-existing disorders. Their unique aspect is their potential to affect the relationship between mother, child and family unit. In developing the model of care the HSE were very much focused on the needs of women, infants and their families.

Most of us expect to feel happy, excited and positive during pregnancy, and when our baby is born. But it doesn’t always happen like this. You can feel many different emotions during pregnancy and after birth. These can range from love, pride and joy, to worry, sadness and frustration. It is natural to feel stressed or anxious at times during pregnancy - or when you have a new baby. These emotions are quite normal.

Up to one in five women have mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth. Some of these are mild and some are more severe. You may:

  • Already have a mental illness when you get pregnant
  • Worry because you have had such problems in the past – this may make it more likely that you will become unwell during your pregnancy or after birth. However, with the right help, this can often be prevented
  •  Develop a mental health problem for the first time in pregnancy or after birth.

But there is effective help and support available if you are likely to have mental health problems during pregnancy or the first year after the birth.  The perinatal mental health service is for any woman with mental health problems who is planning a pregnancy, pregnant or who have a baby up to one-year-old.

The service is constantly striving to develop and improve and it held an innovative workshop event recently where mums provided staff with vital feedback on their experiences to help inform future delivery of the service at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

‘Whose Shoes’ is a fun workshop experience, attended by doctors, midwives, parents and their babies, creating a relaxed, open space that helps draw out the kinds of feedback and information from service users and staff and reinforce the two-way relationship between maternity hospitals and women who require an accessible and skilled response to mild or severe mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year post-delivery.

The UMHL team was delighted to welcome Fiona O'Riordan, the HSE's National Programme Manager for Mental Health Clinical Programmes, to the event.

For Fiona, the Whose Shoes event provides crucial insights not just into what is working about the service, but also how it can be improved.

“Events like Whose Shoes are fantastic for directly hearing the feedback of service users. We get to hear first-hand from women who have got the intervention they needed at the right time, early on in their pregnancies"

“It is very encouraging to hear first-hand that the Perinatal Mental Health Service in Limerick, which was the first to be established outside of Dublin, has made such an impact, even before the team has been fully formed. Since April 2018, it has seen large numbers of women,” she said.

All six of the ‘hub’ sites established under the model of care are now up and running, including UMHL, all three Dublin maternity hospitals, Cork and, in recent weeks, Galway.

Michelle Daly-Hayes, who was one of the first users of the service in Limerick, told the gathering about her experiences with postnatal depression, and how the service had helped her during pregnancy.

“I found the preparations for my scheduled C-section excellent. They gave me a tour of the theatre the week before, and advice on what to wear and what my husband should wear. But for me, the most important part was having check-in after birth. Knowing that someone was going to call me and say, 'Let's have a chat; let's talk about you; let's not talk about the baby and what he is doing, or even your physical health, but about how you're feeling.' That made the post-partum period so much easier,” revealed Michelle.

“Another important thing was that I was referred to the Community Mothers programme in Limerick. There are many amazing services going on in the community in Limerick, and this programme is about bringing that all together and connecting all the dots. Getting out in the community was very important for me. I had my first pregnancy in Dublin, and then the second one down here in Limerick, and I'd been away for 10 years, so I found the isolation quite difficult when I moved back at first.

“Ultimately, it all comes down to self-care. It's all about looking after yourself as well as looking after your babies. I've met many, many women who are on this journey, and everyone struggles, so it's important to pat each other on the back and say ‘Well done!’ from time to time.”