New Mums Need Better Mental Health Services, Say University Experts

More resources need to be put into mental health services for new mothers and pregnant women, University of Ulster researchers will tell an international conference on suicide prevention today.

The researchers, Professor Marlene Sinclair, Professor of Midwifery Research, and Mr Iain McGowan, a Lecturer in Nursing, say suicide is the cause of death among a small but significant number of new mothers.

Mental health issues associated with pregnancy and childbirth need to be addressed urgently, the team say. International research collaborations are needed to address the best way to help midwives and other healthcare professionals identify and treat women who are at risk of suicide or developing mental health problems.

The two UU academics are leading a symposium at the International Congress for Suicide Prevention in Killarney. Mr McGowan said: “Pregnancy and parenting are generally seen to be fulfilling and rewarding. However, the reality for a number of women is that the physical, emotional and social upheaval of having children can leave them vulnerable to social isolation, loneliness and perhaps hopelessness. All of which can lead to mental health problems and, in extreme cases, possible attempts on their own life.”

Professor Sinclair stressed the important role of the midwife in looking after pregnant women and new mothers. “Midwives play a crucial role in caring for women. Normally the midwife is the main carer for women at this time of their life. It is essential that midwives have the knowledge and skills to identify those at risk of mental health problems. This is particularly true in assessing those in crisis so that they can refer women to the appropriate mental health care providers.”

The symposium also included contributions from Mrs Shona Hamilton, Ulster Hospital, Mr Mark Owens, University of Ulster, Mrs Fiona Noonan,Letterkenny General Hospital and Dr Janine Stockdale, R&D Fellow, University of Ulster.