Northern Ireland news

Orlaith Quinn death: Specialist mental health mother and baby unit badly needed

Around 35 women a year in Northern Ireland experience postpartum psychosis

THE death of Orlaith Quinn shows the need for better understanding of postpartum psychosis, a leading charity has said.

Around 35 women a year in Northern Ireland experience the illness.

However, Action on Postpartum Psychosis said the north does not have a specialist mother and baby unit.

Chief Executive Dr Jessica Heron said an inpatient mental health unit to support mothers and their children is badly needed.

"Postpartum psychosis affects 1-2 in every thousand women who give birth in the UK,” she said.

“We estimate that in Northern Ireland around 35 mothers will experience it every year.

“It should always be treated as a medical emergency and the recommended care involves immediate access to a specialist Mother and Baby Unit - of which there are currently none in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Heron said in the absence of a mother and baby unit women “would be admitted to a general psychiatric unit – resulting in separation from their baby during this critical time, with potential lifelong consequences for both mother and baby”.

The charity helps train health professionals.

Dr Heron said there is not enough awareness of postpartum psychosis amongst health staff and the general public.

"This needs to change," she said.

"Around half of women who experience postpartum psychosis have experienced no prior mental illness. Spotting the signs can be life-saving.

"If postpartum psychosis is diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately, women make a full recovery from this severe and life-threatening illness."

A Northern Ireland peer support network to help women who have experienced mania or psychotic symptoms in the perinatal period will be set up next month.

The first virtual cafe will be held on June 16.

To find out about Action on Postpartum Psychosis peer support visit app-network.org/peer-support or contact the charity at app@app-network.org or 02033 229900 during working hours.

:: If you, or anyone close to you, has been affected by the issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000.

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