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NWC calls for targeted measures to resource perinatal mental health services

Published: Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Preliminary data shows 21 women were admitted to psychiatric units in the postnatal period without their babies in 2021.

To mark Maternal Mental Health Week (May 2nd – 8th), the National Women’s Council is calling for formal allocation of funding for Ireland’s first Mother and Baby Unit as well as addressing accommodation issues for multi-disciplinary perinatal teams.

Fay White, Women’s Health Officer NWC said,

“Perinatal mental health problems can happen during pregnancy or in the first year after birth and can affect both the wellbeing of mothers and development of children.[1] Poor social supports, being from a disadvantaged background and experiences of violence are risk factors for developing perinatal mental health problems[2].”

1 in 5 women will experience mental health problems during the perinatal period. Restrictions throughout the pandemic meant that many women had to attend hospital appointments, receive devastating news and go into labour on their own, impacting their mental health.[3] This was in addition to isolation from family members after their baby was born. Despite all public health restrictions being lifted, restrictions in some maternity hospitals are ongoing[4].

Mother and Baby Units are specialist in-patient units for women with mental health problems during pregnancy or after the birth of their child. Ireland does not have any Mother and Baby Units and mothers with severe mental health conditions receive care separate from their babies in general psychiatric units instead. This separation of women and their babies has an adverse impact on parent-infant attachment.

We welcome the commitment in the Women’s Health Action Plan 2022-23 to developing a more holistic model to support women in the weeks after giving birth through investment in an additional 2 community-based postnatal hubs in 2022. However, despite commitments to the development of a Mother and Baby unit, there has been no formal allocation of funding for it.

Fay White added,

“While strides have been made in staffing multi-disciplinary teams in perinatal mental health services, accommodating these teams is a huge issue which means that despite full staffing, some teams can only see a limited number of patients because of lack of space.”

NWC said that to improve access to perinatal mental health services we need:

  • A commitment of €2 million in funding for a feasibility study so that practical steps can be identified to progressing the development of the Mother and Baby Unit.
  • To address lack of space to accommodate perinatal mental health teams through the provision of modular units adjacent to maternity hospitals.


For more information, please contact Vicky Masterson, Digital Campaigns and Communications Officer, NWC, Tel. 087 100 0385.

About NWC

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Find out more on www.nwci.ie

[1]Baur, A. et al. 2014 The costs of perinatal mental health  problems LSE and Centre for Mental Health: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/59885/1/__lse.ac.uk_storage_LIBRARY_Secondary_libfile_shared_repository_Content_Bauer%2C%20M_Bauer_Costs_perinatal_%20mental_2014_Bauer_Costs_perinatal_mental_2014_author.pdf

[2] NWC (2018) Out of Silence

[3] Psychological Society of Ireland (2020) ‘The Experiences of Women in the Perinatal Period During the Covid-19 Pandemic’ Press Release.  https://www.psychologicalsociety.ie/source/Press%20release%20Maternal%20Mental%20Health%20Week%2003-09%20May%20SIG%20PIMH%202021.pdf

[4] https://www.thejournal.ie/maternity-hospitals-partner-access-5691200-Feb2022/