Scotland’s first Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit was opened by NHS Greater Glasgow in October 2004.
The £1.3m six bedded unit on the Southern General Hospital site enables mothers to stay with their babies while they undergo treatment for a range of mental illnesses, including postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis (a more severe postnatal mental illness). Maintaining this contact is critical to the wellbeing of both mother and child as it not only aids the recovery process but also helps strengthen future relationships.
Staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of 24 health professionals including psychiatrists, mental health nurses, nursery nurses, a health visitor, social worker and nursing assistants, the Unit has improved the care and treatment of women from across the West of Scotland.
Referrals to the Unit are accepted from a wide range of health professionals including GPs, health visitors and midwives.
The development of the new Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit is part of wider plans to improve services for pregnant women and new mothers who experience mental illness across Greater Glasgow. A new community team, based at the Mother and Baby Mental Health Unit, has been created to support the vast majority of women who do not require inpatient care. A screening system to help midwives and health visitors identify pregnant women who have, or are at risk of developing, mental health problems is also being rolled out across the city.
Around 10 to 15% of women may suffer from depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. Most women recover with the help of a midwife, health visitor and GP. A proportion will experience more serious depression and around 1 in 500 women will suffer from puerperal psychosis, a severe illness usually requiring admission to hospital. Postnatal Depression is a different condition to the ‘baby blues’ which can occur on the fourth day after the baby is born. Mothers may find themselves crying for no particular reason, but this usually passes in a day or two as long as the mother has had a chance to rest. PND is a more prolonged illness and can be caused by a number of factors. These include psychological and social factors such as the demands, obligations and responsibilities of being a mother. A new mother may fear that she is inadequate and not able to live up to her own and/or other people's expectations; family factors are also important, including the relationship a mother has with the child's father; and the support she receives from other people or biological factors may also play a role including the hormonal changes that occur following childbirth. Guidance for health professionals who work with new mothers experiencing mental ill health, including postnatal depression, was issued by the Scottish Executive in 2004. The group which produced the guidance was chaired by Karen Robertson, Nurse Consultant in Perinatal Mental Health, NHS Greater Glasgow.