NI Mums Call for Improved Maternity and Perinatal Services

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Women in Northern Ireland are demanding a greater voice in maternity and perinatal services as shortfalls in provision are putting the mental health of mothers at risk.

Mothers and health advocates will speak openly about their experiences with the health service and call for urgent improvements in care, including required training for all healthcare professionals on Postpartum Psychosis, a serious and life-threatening condition. 

The mums will describe their lived experiences to healthcare professionals and MLAs at a special event at Stormont (Nov 28) in an effort to bring changes. 

Organised by the Maternal Advocacy and Support (Mas) Project, the event in the Long Gallery brings together mothers and mental health champions to launch a resource detailing the shortfalls in care by many women. 

Clare Anderson, Mas Project Coordinator, said: “Women have highlighted key areas that would make a difference to their experience such as compassion, non-judgement, better communication, signposting to services and earlier identification of a perinatal mental health problem. We understand how stretched the health service is and how hard they are working but we want health leaders to see the care from the perspective of the women they treat.” 

The Mas project, led by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA), provides peer support and the opportunity for women to share their lived experience with the aim of improving services in the future.  

As part of this project, the women developed a flyer as a resource for the healthcare sector highlighting what changes could be made that would improve care.  

Speakers at the event include Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O'Neill and Ellie Ware from Action on Postpartum Psychosis as well as a number of very personal stories by mothers highlighting areas that could be improved. 

Professor Siobhan O'Neill: “I want to thank the women who have spoken out about their experiences, their stories provide an impetus to improving maternal and perinatal services for the future. We know the issues, and we know that providing compassionate responses when mothers are struggling and early intervention services make a real difference to the lives of women and their babies. There is also strong evidence that early intervention and support for mothers is excellent value for money. The changes needed are set out in the Mental Health Strategy, and it is vital that this Strategy continues to be implemented at pace, so that all mothers receive the support that they need.”  

Jannine Barnes, a Mas participant at Ballybeen Women's Centre, said: “Many of us have had experiences that could have been much better and we want to improve that for women in the future.  Some women have felt that they haven't been listened to and have felt judged, which has further impacted on their mental health. The Mas project has been a lifeline for us and provided non-judgemental peer support.  I feel like I don't know where I would have been without it.' 

Ellie Ware, Peer support Coordinator from Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “Postpartum psychosis will affect approximately 35 women a year in Northern Ireland. It is essential that all healthcare professionals receive training, so women are quickly diagnosed and receive the right treatment. Postpartum Psychosis is always a medical emergency and yet, while every other region of the UK now has specialist Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) to treat women experiencing this severe mental illness, Northern Ireland currently has no such facilities.” 

A similar event will be held at the Guildhall in Derry/Londonderry on December 2. 

To find out more about the Mas project, go to:

Women in Northern Ireland are demanding a greater voice in maternity and perinatal services as shortfalls in provision are putting the mental health of mothers at risk. At the Maternal Advocacy and Support (Mas) Project event at Stormont were:

Ellie Ware, Action for Post Partum Psychosis; Lynette Glen, Atlas Centre; Clare Anderson, Mas Project Co-ordinator and Janine Barnes, Ballybeen Women's Centre.

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