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New project aims to tackle the taboo of mental health

08 October 2014

A new project at West Middlesex University Hospital aims to improve awareness and access to support for women experiencing mental health issues during pregnancy and soon after birth.

A new project at West Middlesex University Hospital aims to improve awareness and access to support for women experiencing mental health issues during pregnancy and soon after birth.

Around one in ten new mothers will experience some form of depressive illness during pregnancy or in the first year of their baby’s life. Most will only have mild depression, but some develop a severe depressive illness and in 2012-13 six women died due to perinatal* mental health problems.

Perinatal mental health midwife specialist Julia Lidderdale explained: “Mental illness still carries a stigma, and for new mothers it can be particularly difficult to admit that they are not just experiencing ‘baby blues’ and struggling to adapt to sleepless nights and the added responsibility of looking after their baby.

“It is important that perinatal mental health is recognised as a condition, so that treatment can be sought and offered. Our simple aim is to provide education about perinatal mental health to women, their partners and families as well as to health professionals, so that they are better equipped to recognise the signs, and are able to offer help and advice.”

The perinatal mental health team comprises specialist midwives, obstetricians, mental health specialists and a GP to ensure a joined up approach both within the hospital and in the community wherever pregnant and new mothers will access health services.

Although the project is only funded for ten months the intention is to embed the educational legacy so that it will be carried through and benefit future mums to be.

* Perinatal describes the period surrounding birth