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NWC reiterates call for Mother and Baby Unit

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Mental health difficulties in the perinatal period are common, with 1 in 5 women reporting this experience in pregnancy or in the first year after birth. At a roundtable of key stakeholders today, the National Women’s Council (NWC) reiterated its call for a Mother and Baby Unit where women with severe or complex mental health difficulties can receive in-patient care and remain with their baby.

Kate Mitchell, NWC’s Head of Policy and Development said: 

“The specialist in-patient unit, which would be the first of its kind on the island, is the only part of the national perinatal mental health model of care yet to be completed. We’ve brought together a diverse range of expertise to discuss developments in the specialist perinatal mental health model of care, the most critical of which is now the establishment of a dedicated Mother and Baby Unit. This must be complemented by continued improvements in a wide range of perinatal mental health services and supports across primary, community and acute and specialist settings”.    

Doireann Crosson, NWC’s Women’s Health Coordinator, added:

“Despite previous commitments from government to develop Ireland’s first Mother and Baby Unit, they have yet to establish it. This means women with severe or complex mental health difficulties will continue to be admitted to general mental health inpatient units without their babies, contrary to best-practice. This separation can have a profound adverse impact on mothers and their babies. We’re now calling on government to respond and establish, without further delay, this specialist unit so that the mental health needs of all women and their babies are appropriately met.  

Experts in attendance highlighted the prevalence of, and changes over time in, depression, anxiety and stress symptoms experienced by mothers. These symptoms are exacerbated by the fact that perinatal care effectively ends six weeks post-birth, even though, as evidenced, many women and people who have just given birth require services beyond this date.

Participants at today’s roundtable noted that that while there has been a positive increase in conversations about mental health, there is often additional stigma for mothers experiencing mental health difficulties. That stigma has profound negative consequences not only for the woman, but also  the baby and wider family. While continuous investment is required to further enhance  these perinatal mental health services, participants also emphasised the importance of further data collection and research. This would be particularly helpful in understanding the unique perinatal mental health difficulties  experienced by marginalised mothers, such as lone parents, disabled women and those from ethnic minority groups.


Following the event, NWC will compile a summary report with key recommendations to improve the outcomes and access for all women during the perinatal period. This will build on previous health advocacy work NWC has conducted in this area, including our recent publication on gender-sensitive mental health care.  


For comment: Kate Mitchell

Find here our recent publication on gender-sensitive mental health: https://www.nwci.ie/images/uploads/NWC_GenderSensitiveMHReport_V3_%281%29.pdf

For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator on sineadn@nwci.ie

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.

This year we celebrate 50 years since our foundation with a special calendar of events and campaigns.

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. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie