Many people are aware of possible mental health problems associated with pregnancy but do people realise how destructive these can be? Suicide in the perinatal period is the highest cause of maternal death in the UK. Also, maternal depression prior to the baby’s birth can increase the risk of birth complications and poorer birth outcomes, including higher rates of spontaneous abortion, low birth weight babies and developmental delay. Again, anxiety in the mother has been shown to be linked to poorer child health and behavioural difficulties at the age of four years.
National Perinatal Mental Health Project
The National Perinatal Mental Health Project Report, published by the Mental Health Development Unit on 8th March 2011 examines provision of mental health care for women who are planning to have a baby, are pregnant or who have had a baby in the past year or so. In particular the report examines the current provision of care for women in the Black and Ethnic Minority groups. (http://www.nmhdu.org.uk/silo/files/national-perinatal-mental-health-project-report-.pdf)
As I was reading this report one finding struck me as being very significant; namely that 27 different professional groups may be involved in the care of women with mental health difficulties who are in the perinatal period. How can all these different groups work together to provide seamless, efficient care? After all, many of them will have been trained in different ways and use various theories to underpin their practice.
So, how can care be co-ordinated and dove-tailed together? The answer is fairly straightforward, I think. It is the mental health nurse who is at the hub of the multidisciplinary ‘wheel’ together with the service user. It is the mental health nurse who spends time with the service user, who is the conduit through which messages are passed and information carried. Perhaps we should be highlighting this aspect of our role much more. Forget superconductors; just get a mental health nurse involved!
Post-graduate certificate in perinatal mental health at Birmingham City University
Seriously though, we should be promoting this aspect of our role, and giving it the value that it deserves. Without the nurse to ‘glue’ the team together, care would be a lot more fragmented. The importance of communication is a strong aspect of a new post-graduate certificate in perinatal mental health being run at Birmingham City University. This is a brand new course, designed b y academics and clinicians together and aimed at any health care professionals who work with women in the perinatal period. If you would like more information about the course, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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