Staff at University Maternity Hospital Limerick are using telephone and cloud computing technology to adapt mental health services for pregnant women and new mums in the Mid-West who may be struggling with stress and anxiety as a result of social distancing restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Perinatal Mental Health Service leads at UMHL, Dr Mas Mahady (Perinatal Psychiatrist) and Maria Gibbons (Mental Health Midwife Manager) are issuing an urgent appeal for women during pregnancy and during the first 12 months after the birth of their babies, and who have concerns about their mental health, to be aware that help is very much at hand.
Maria Gibbons said: “The Perinatal Mental Health Service is operating as normal. You can be referred by your midwife, your doctor at the Maternity Hospital, or by your GP.”
“Women and families who are struggling and concerned for their mental health should seek help and support,” Maria emphasised. “Mental health is as important as physical health. Talking about it is the first step in getting the right support.”
Dr Mahady explained that even in normal circumstances, mental health presentations are common during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and some women may find the current socially distanced situation more stressful and anxiety-provoking.
“Anxiety or depression will not go away in a pandemic. In fact, without support from extended family and friends, some women will find things a lot more stressful at home,” Dr Mahady said.
He said pregnant women or new mums who feel anxious all the time, or are constantly experiencing a low or irritable mood, may well need help from a professional. “Please speak to your doctor. If you are struggling, or if you notice that your partner, or a family member, is struggling at this time, please ask for help,” Dr Mahady added.
In line with the current social and physical distancing restrictions, the Perinatal Mental Health Service team at UMHL has reduced the amount of face to face contact, but used telephone and cloud computing technology for consultations.
“We’re using a software system that sends the patient a text message with a unique link for a secure video call. While it has taken a little getting accustomed to, it’s very user-friendly and very effective. This works very well for our existing patients and inpatients, but we’re most concerned about women out there for whom the restrictions have reduced access to GPs. It’s important that those women know that they can still contact their GP by telephone, and that we are accepting referrals from GPs. It’s important that they realise help is there at this time,” Dr Mahady explained.
“Mother-baby groups, and even baby massage classes, are being conducted via Zoom and Skype, among a range of other online services. So, what we are doing essentially, remains the same, only it’s being delivered by phone or online. We’re open for business, but we’ve adapting and tailoring our services in line with the changed circumstances,” Dr Mahady said.
The Mental Health and Community Support Services also continue to provide assessment, treatment and supports for pregnant women, new mums and their families, and further information is available on these from GPs throughout the Mid-West.
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