ABERLOUR Children’s Charity has launched a new befriending service in East Lothian for mothers experiencing perinatal mental health issues during pregnancy and following the birth of their baby. 

Perinatal mental health is a term used to cover all mental health issues during pregnancy and the first year after birth including anxiety, depression and psychosis-related disorders. In Scotland, roughly one in five new mothers experience mental health problems either during pregnancy or in the first year after birth, which equates to more than 11,000 women per year.

The Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service matches pregnant and new mothers with volunteer befrienders trained to be positive and supportive role models. The new service offers personalised support from conception up until the child’s first birthday through regular and emotional support and guidance. As well as providing individual assistance in the family home and community, the volunteer befrienders will also help mothers access support from other relevant services in their communities.

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey welcomed the launch of the new service at an event in Musselburgh where she met with key stakeholders including health professionals who will be on the lookout for signs of perinatal mental health issues in mothers they are working with.

New Perinatal Mental Health service for mothers in East Lothian launches

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said:

“Strong perinatal mental health care is vitally important in helping new mothers and their families to cope with problems during and after pregnancy. The approach of the Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support Service of supporting the whole family is an excellent example of providing the right care, in the right place, at the time they need it.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring all women, their infants and families have access to this support wherever they live, and that is why we are investing more than £50 million of new funding in perinatal mental health services. We want to transform the services available to new mothers who in need, by providing more counselling, and stronger specialist support.”

Working closely with the Integrated Health and Social Care Partnership, Aberlour identified areas in Scotland with high levels of women experiencing perinatal mental health issues. The scheme was first piloted in Falkirk in 2016 subsequently expanding to cover Forth Valley thanks to funding from Wm Grant Foundation and Comic Relief.  The National Lottery Award from the Big Lottery Fund means the charity was able to set up a second initiative in East Lothian.

Liz Nolan, Assistant Director at Aberlour Children’s Charity, said:

“In recent years the conversation around perinatal mental health has started to open up in part thanks to high profile celebrity mothers sharing their experiences. However, there is still the stigma to overcome, and the consequences for both the mother and the child are clear. Perinatal mental ill health is one of the leading causes of death for mothers during pregnancy and the year after birth, while it can also impact on the healthy emotional, cognitive and even physical development of the child.

“Our Perinatal Befriending Support Service offers a tailored service based on individual needs through a programme provided by a co-ordinator and trained volunteers, who provide support and advice to new mothers, from the time of conception through to the baby’s first birthday. Over the next three years we will work with more than 180 mothers in East Lothian and it is our ultimate ambition to roll the service out across Scotland so that every new mother, no matter where they live, has access to personalised support and assistance when they need it most.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a befriender, or with any other role with Aberlour, visit www.aberlour.org.uk/volunteer.