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Tool developed to help predict mental illness in new mothers

A new online training tool has been developed to help midwives neonatal nurses in Wales identify and treat new mothers at risk of severe mental illness in the postnatal period.

It is intended to ensure health professionals involved in antenatal and postnatal care ask key questions that could predict, as well as detect, women at risk of severe mental illness during pregnancy and childbirth.

The programme was designed by a team from Cardiff University’s schools of medicine and nursing and midwifery with funding from the Welsh Government.

Ian Jones, reader in perinatal psychiatry, led its development. He said: “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 training programme covers a range of subject areas including commonly held beliefs about mental health and pregnancy; characteristics of those women most at risk of severe mental illness; help for healthcare 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.

It was launched last week by chief nursing officer for Wales Jean White at a midwifery conference in Cardiff.

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

The Maternal Mental Health: A learning Programme for Midwives training module is available at:

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