A spotlight is shining on Perinatal Mental Health this month as part of a new initiative at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.
This October, to mark World Mental Health Month, the Ennis Road Hospital is being lit up in green each night as part of the global campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. Green, which is the international colour for mental health awareness, is often seen as the colour of optimism, new beginnings and hope. The Hospital is among a number of public buildings in Limerick City that are lighting up in green this month to shine a light on mental health.
The hospital is home to a Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service which became the first service of its kind outside of Dublin when it was established in April 2018. It now has a multidisciplinary team of nine staff, eight of whom are clinical staff led by Dr. Mas Mohamad, Perinatal Psychiatrist. The team work to ensure that all women attending the maternity service have information on positive mental health. Standard questions on mental health as well as physical health are routinely asked of women attending both booking and review clinics in UMHL. The Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service has the responsibility for women with moderate to serious mental illnesses and the service is vital because of the very negative consequences of perinatal mental health disorders for the mother, the baby, their relationship and that with the partner and other children. The service has seen a large increase of women accessing the service since it opened in 2018 with over a 50% increase in the numbers seen year to date compared with 2018 or 2019. This in part shows the growing awareness of the service and willingness of women to come forward to speak about their concerns.
As many as 1 in 5 women have mental health problems in pregnancy or the year after birth. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy and affect about 10 to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women. Whilst the focus of this specialist service is on women with moderate to severe mental illness, it also ensures women with milder mental health problems are both identified and receive appropriate help from skilled staff within maternity services. This is done through the development of the role of the perinatal mental health midwife nationally who plays a central role in educating and training all involved in the delivery of services to women during the antenatal and postnatal periods. The specific circumstances of pregnancy, birth and early mother/infant bonding requires staff that are knowledgeable, skilled, sensitive and experienced in responding to Mental Health issues in the perinatal period.
The National Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Programme with key staff from UMHL and other Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Services has developed a number of resources for women and their families, including specific evidence-based patient information in the form of leaflets and videos which aim to reduce stigma. We also encourage those who need support to talk to their GP, Public Health Nurse, Midwife or Obstetrician who can direct them to appropriate resources and make onwards referrals if necessary.
The resources are available to view online at: