Second Annual Perinatal Mental Health Conference Takes Place at UHL

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Perinatal Mental Health Conference was held in UHL on Wednesday. Pictured are Dr Mas Mohamad Mahedy Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist UMHL, Maria Gibbons , Clinical Midwife Manager Perinatal Mental Health UMHL, Mary O Kelly, CERC Manager UMHL, Mary Sheehan, Consultant Sec UMHL, Anne Hegarty, Head Medical Social Work, UHL, Mary O Brien, Directorate General Manager Maternal and Child Health UHL, Dr Mendinaro Imcha , Consultant Obstetrician / Gynaecologist UMHL and James Harrington, Assistant Director of Nursing Mental Health Mid West. Picture: Brian Arthur

Second Annual Perinatal Mental Health Conference takes place at UHL

UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare hosted the second annual Perinatal Mental Health Conference at the Clinical Education and Research Centre, UHL, on December 5th.

A host of national and international speakers attended the event, and over 150 attendees also heard from service users and their families around issues of mental health during and after pregnancy.

The conference is now an annual event for UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Health Care who have between them established, in line with the National Maternity Strategy and the new national model of care, the first Specialist Perinatal Mental Health service in Ireland outside of Dublin.

The WHO estimates that worldwide approximately 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth, experience a mental disorder, primarily depression.

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Dr Gerry Burke – Clinical Director Maternal and Child Health UHL, Dr Margo Wrigley – National Clinical Lead Perinatal Mental Health, Dr Mas Mohamad Mahesy – Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist UMHL, Dr Mendinaro Imcha – Consultant Obstetrician / Gynaecologist UMHL and Dr Raja Gangopodhyaya – Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Mid West Hertfordshire Hospitals , NHS Trust pictured at the Perinatal Mental Health Conference in UHL on Wednesday. Picture: Brian Arthur

Among the speakers at this Wednesday’s conference was Dr Raja Gangopadhyay, a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, UK, with a particular interest in Perinatal Mental Health (PNMH).

Dr Gangopadhyay has been invited to a House of Lords meeting as a member of the Expert Panel and organised and chaired events at the House of Commons. He is the Founder of International Forum for Wellbeing in Pregnancy (IFWIP): a unique initiative to raise awareness of mental wellbeing during pregnancy from a global perspective.

Speaking on the importance of a continuum of service from early pregnancy through to the post-natal period, Dr Gangopadhyay said: “Antenatal depression is almost equally as common as postnatal depression: a fact that many of us do not know. In one-third of the cases of post-natal depression, there is the continuation of depression during pregnancy when this is not adequately treated during pregnancy. Many measures can be taken during pregnancy to reduce or prevent post-natal depression, psychosis or a relapse of serious mental health problems”.

Providing access to specialists in the antenatal period (GP referral, antenatal clinics in Ennis, UMHL etc.) is a feature of the new Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service in the Mid-West, a joint initiative of the UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare. The development of this service provided the local context to the conference.

The service was set up in response to recommendations in the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026. The strategy includes providing better support for the mental health needs of women during the pre-conceptual, antenatal and extended postnatal periods; improving access to mental health services and support in our maternity services; training for healthcare professionals to identify women at risk of developing mental health issues; standardising access to perinatal psychiatry and psychology services and much more.

 The new Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service is the coming together of separate disciplines – obstetrics, midwifery and psychiatry – to provide services to women experiencing mental health problems during and after pregnancy in the Mid-West.

A key focus of the new service is to provide high-quality care for women with moderate to severe mental health difficulties pre-conceptually, throughout pregnancy and up to the end of the first postnatal year. We hope to fulfil a preventive and an early intervention role by improving the identification of women with milder forms of illness. This new service will also play a vital role in the training of all layers of healthcare professionals within the region and the promotion of research within this very specialised area of medicine.

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Dr Gerry Burke – Clinical Director Maternal and Child Health UHL, Dr Margo Wrigley – National Clinical Lead Perinatal Mental Health and Dr Raja Gangopodhyaya – Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Mid West Hertfordshire Hospitals, NHS Trust pictured at the Perinatal Mental Health Conference in UHL on Wednesday. Picture: Brian Arthur

Dr Mas Mahady Mohamad, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist, UL Hospitals Group/HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare, said “In our first six months of service, we have consistently received over 60 referrals per month. In accordance with international guidelines, we have started screening all mothers attending the antenatal clinic for both anxiety and depression. We have had dozens of training and teaching sessions for staff in the hospital, GPs, Public Health Nurses and Psychiatrists. We have defined and agreed referral pathways and referral forms. In addition to our antenatal clinics in UMHL, we have also set up a postnatal clinic in King’s Island Primary Care Centre in Limerick City.”

The speaker was Caitlin McCreesh from Limerick, who has been supported by the Teen Parents Support Programme in Limerick City, which is funded by Tusla. Research shows that girls ranging from 15 to 19 experienced postpartum depression at a rate twice as high as women aged 25 and older.

Further studies report that teen mothers face significant levels of stress that can then lead to increased mental health concerns. In addition to higher rates of postpartum depression, teenage mothers have higher rates of depression.

 Ms McCreesh said “Teen pregnancy and teen motherhood is very challenging, and we face many difficulties that may be absent if we were older.

“I had to deal with the pressures of motherhood, sleepless nights, relationship breakdowns and accepting life as a single mother.  I mourned the life I wouldn’t have anymore.  I had to focus on finishing my education and ensuring that my child was well looked after all while trying to financially support my son. The Teen Parents Support Programme Limerick provided me with continued support with every issue and concern, they believed in our capabilities and encouraged to make our futures bright.”

Opening the conference, Prof Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said it was important that acute and community sectors continued to work together to develop the service in the Mid-West.

“The number of women seen and treated by the new team has exceeded expectations. This tells us many things but, most importantly, it informs us that when services are available and easily accessible, more women are opening up and seeking help from professionals. It is essential that they do.

 And closing the conference, Bernard Gloster, Chief Officer, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare, said: “We are delighted to again partner with UL Hospitals in this important conference which now has the hallmarks and credibility of being an annual fully subscribed event in the wider health calendar.  The conference creates an opportunity for people with a critical interest in perinatal mental health to contribute, hear and explore the many different aspects.  Such discourse invariably leads to greater awareness and enhanced service delivery.”

 Having visited University Maternity Hospital Limerick in recent days, Jim Daly, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, was happy to endorse the service and the conference.

“Having launched the new HSE Model of Care for Specialist Perinatal Mental Health in Ireland last November, I was delighted to visit University Maternity Hospital Limerick to meet the people now running this service in the Mid-West.

I was also delighted to hear about the second annual conference on Perinatal Mental Health. This event will touch upon the significant and positive work that has taken place in the short space of a year alongside wider learning, all of which contributes to reaching women earlier and ensuring the best possible outcomes for all.” 

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