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On-line tool to help midwifes identify mothers at risk of ‘severe mental illness’

01 March 2012

A new on-line tool and DVD developed by Cardiff University experts to help midwives identify and treat new mothers at risk of severe mental illness will be officially launched by the Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Professor Jean White at the St David's Day Conference of the Royal College of Midwives.

Maternal Mental Health: A learning Programme for Midwives, has been designed by the All-Wales Perinatal Mental Health Group led by a team from Cardiff University’s Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery and produced by Healthcare Learning Company, Smile-On, with funding from the Welsh Government.

Central to the new learning module is healthcare professionals, involved in antenatal and postnatal care, asking key questions to help predict, as well as detect, those women at risk of severe mental illness during pregnancy and childbirth.

"Some years ago the World Health Organization proposed that there is no health without mental health," said Dr Ian Jones from the National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) hosted by Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, who led the development of the training module.

"Suicide is a leading cause of maternal death in the UK and it is vital that women at high risk of severe mental illness at this time are identified so that appropriate help can be given to help keep them well.

"The Mental health and well-being of women in pregnancy is pivotal to ensuring good clinical, social and psychological outcomes for both mother and baby and provide a healthy start to family life.

"In view of this, it is essential that mental health is a central component of midwifery care – which is the primary motivation in developing this new on-line learning tool," he added.

The module covers a variety of different subject areas including: commonly held beliefs about mental health and pregnancy; characteristics of those women most at risk of severe mental illness; help for health care professionals to ask questions about a person’s mental health in the right way and then how to interpret the answers; and when to refer women for more help.

"By developing this new learning programme our aim is to provide the essentials that midwives and, indeed, all healthcare professionals need to identify those women at risk of severe mental illness in the postnatal period," according to Grace Thomas from Cardiff University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and Consultant Midwife at the Aneurin Bevan Health Board.

"By providing these essential skills we hope to ensure that women will receive timely advice, referral and treatment and access to skilled appropriate care," she added.

The new module available contains a series of on-line resources including videos and learning materials which can be accessed at any time, helping busy midwives and students to fit their training around their working day, as well as being a valuable resource in group and workshop education sessions.

The Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Professor Jean White has been monitoring the progress of the toolkit and welcomes its on-line accessibility. Professor White said: "Having a baby is a wonderful experience, but for some mothers it can be an overwhelming one. Asking the right questions could mean the difference between a new mum feeling isolated and alone or receiving the help she needs.

"As an on-line resource, it is invaluable. Students, and indeed midwives and other health professionals with many years of experience, can review this training module and make sure they have the tools and understanding to address an individual mother’s level of need."

The training module is available to view on-line at:

The St David's Day Conference of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) takes place on Thursday 1st March at The Holland House, Hotel Cardiff.

Helen Rogers, Royal College of Midwives, Director for Wales, said: "The mental health of pregnant and postnatal women is too often neglected and overlooked, so this initiative is a major and positive step.

"There is a real need to raise awareness of this issue among midwives and other health professionals and this toolkit will go a long way towards achieving this. It is so important that we get the support and services in place for women, because the consequences of failing to do so can be disastrous."

Notes to Editor

Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.

Further information/media interviews – please contact:

Dr Ian Jones
Cardiff University
School of Medicine
National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH)
Tel: 029 20687066

Ms Grace Thomas (Welsh speaker)
Cardiff University
School of Nursing and Midwifery
National centre for Mental Health (NCMH)
Tel: (0)29 2091 7732

Chris Jones
Cardiff University
Public Relations Officer
Tel: 029 20 874731