Specialist service aims to boost mental health of new mothers

Here to help: Dr Nusrat Mir
Here to help: Dr Nusrat Mir
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Pregnant women and new mums who experience mental health problems are most often treated by their own GP or in regular community services.

But in Sheffield, there is an additional and highly specialist community service which is available just to those pregnant women and new mums who are affected by severe forms of mental health problems.

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS FoundationTrust (SHSC) runs the city’s Perinatal Mental Health Service which provides this additional level of specialist advice.

It helps women with the most severe forms of mental health problems, such as moderate to severe postnatal depression as well as those with an existing condition, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The aim is to help women to manage their mental health throughout their pregnancy and following the birth of their baby.

Some women have existing conditions such as anxiety and depression, while for others a mental health problem comes completely ‘out of the blue.’

Dr Nusrat Mir, consultant perinatal psychiatrist, Jan Cubison, clinical service manager, and Rachael Ibbotson, service administrator, run the service which offers an individual care plan for all women seen.

The perinatal mental health service, formed ten years ago works closely with other health professionals. It has forged strong links with maternity services at the Jessop Wing and services provided by GPs, midwives and health visitors.

In Sheffield there are some 7,200 births a year and the perinatal service sees almost 300 new women a year.

“Most people we see are already pregnant, but some people we see will seek advice about adjusting their medication from our psychiatrist, before pregnancy.

For women on medication for a mental health problem the service helps with advice about adjusting their medication,” said Jan.

The team offers a care plan to every woman they see and can also offer advice and signposting to techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

For a small number of women, if needed, they will visit women at home on a regular basis to offer treatment and support.

A few women who need inpatient care are referred to a mother and 
baby unit, usually to Nottingham.

The service can take referrals from health professionals and also offers them further training in this specialist area.

Dr Mir said: “Many health professionals already offer a range of excellent services to help women cope with postnatal depression and anxiety.

“However, in severe cases women need additional support and specialist input, which is where our service has a role to play.”

Anyone who is pregnant or has recently given birth, and has any concerns should speak to their midwife, health visitor or GP.