Supporting Perinatal Mental Health

Date: 07/06/2023

Supporting the mental health of our pregnant patients is an essential aspect of maternity care here at Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH) and specialist perinatal mental health midwife Liz Payne plays a key role. She supports our teams of community and hospital-based midwives to empower them to care for the patients in their caseload.

Liz, who previously worked as a community midwife, was keen to move into a more specialised role to support patients with additional issues which can sometimes make their experience of pregnancy a little more complex.

“I met many patients in the community who were dealing with all kinds of complexities and challenges which were impacting their mental health,” explains Liz. “This could be pre-existing diagnosed mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Then if there were other challenges on top – such as financial, housing, family, and relationships – these can add extra strain, especially in pregnancy. I went on to take specialist training before being appointed to this rewarding role.”

The perinatal period is defined as from conception until between 10 and 28 days after birth for perinatal mental health patients, depending on their individual needs. Liz’s role allows her to offer additional help to patients and her expert knowledge means she is also able to signpost them to other organisations in the city, such as various charities, the council, children’s centres, and befriending services.

For Liz, no two days are the same. “Every day I check my emails first thing to see if anything that needs addressing has come in overnight. Then I contact all areas of maternity – community teams, Labour Ward, and our ADAU (antenatal day assessment unit). I also take the time to engage with patients who might benefit from my input, ensuring I build rapport and trust so they can make the most of what we can offer to them.”

Taking patients’ perinatal mental health into account is vital to ensuring that they and their growing babies receive the best possible care. Research has shown that around a quarter of pregnant women have some kind of mental health concerns.

Liz also supports on training courses on perinatal mental health for MKUH teams as well as multidisciplinary professionals in the wider Milton Keynes healthcare community.