Hospitals have no units to admit new mother and her baby if she has mental health illness

It was discovered that there is not a single hospital unit in the country where a new mother and her baby can be admitted together if she is facing serious mental illness.

The creation of mother and baby units was recommended in 2017, when the HSE began developing mental health services for pregnant women.

Data suggests that one in five women experience mental health problems during pregnancy. However, a woman with severe or complex needs who might benefit from inpatient care can only be admitted to general mental health units without her baby.

Doireann Crosson, women’s health coordinator at NWC, said: “Women cannot wait any longer. Allowing mother and baby to stay together is crucial for attachment and bonding. That’s why NWC has repeatedly called for a mother and baby unit to be set up urgently.”

The research is based on roundtable discussions among women with different experiences of maternity services, including migrant and nomadic women. It also highlighted general shortcomings despite ongoing reforms.

The report recommends “safe and sustainable investment” in the HSE’s model of care so that it can be fully implemented.

Michelle Daly Hayes

Michelle Daly Hayes from Limerick supports this call. She explained that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the birth of her first child, Luke. She also experienced trauma during her second pregnancy, this time with specialist support.

“Following the birth of my second son, Cole, I was fortunate to have the support of a perinatal mental health nurse and community mother here at home in Limerick,” she said, referring to a home visiting service.

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Compared to her first birth, she said, “I didn’t have the same levels of anxiety at all” thanks to the help available.

“It’s not easy to answer a quick question from a doctor about mental health during a half-hour consultation, and not everyone gets asked that question,” she said.

“But the perinatal team was there just to talk about my mental health. Those supports should be available to all women who need them.”

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