New hospital-led community service for mums and bubs

26 September 2018 | Fundraising | Mental health

Mothers and their newborns will benefit from a new “one-stop-shop” support program run by the Royal Women’s Hospital aimed at bridging the gap between in-hospital and community care for women who are experiencing depression, anxiety or trauma.

The BEAR House pilot study will identify and support vulnerable groups of mothers and their newborns through a two-week innovative day program focussed on providing early parenting guidance and advice from specialist healthcare workers including a maternal child health nurse, psychologists, and mental health professionals.

Run by the Centre for Women’s Mental Health, the pilot is an extension of the Building Early Attachment and Resilience (BEAR) programs currently operating at the Women’s for pregnant patients and new mothers who have or are at risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

“BEAR House is largely designed to support mothers who may have difficulties with early parenting and attachment with their newborn due to historical or recently diagnosed mental health challenges,” Professor Louise Newman, Director of the Centre for Women’s Mental Health said.

“We know pregnancy and early parenthood is a particularly vulnerable time for this group of women. This pilot study will allow us to assist new mothers in how to care for, bond with and understand their newborn in an intensive setting where we can follow up with them on a daily basis and provide the tailored support they need.”

Prof Newman said there was a good body of evidence to indicate that what happens in the first three years of a child’s life can affect whether they will be vulnerable to mental disorders later in life.

“We know that if a child has a good experience in a nurturing environment in those very early months and years, it builds up resilience and can protect the child from future mental health risk,” she said.

Prof Newman said the Women’s ongoing relationship with mental health charity Liptember had allowed for the development of BEAR House.

“Our partnership with Liptember over the past eight years enabled us to establish Australia’s first body of research looking at evidence-based interventions for the in-hospital BEAR programs and we are so proud to now be moving this model out of the hospital walls and into the community where people need it,” Prof Newman said.

BEAR House will see groups of six mothers and their babies take part in the fortnight-long program and will also provide support to partners and/or fathers.

Tess's story:

Tess Tagg faced anxiety during her last three pregnancies after her first daughter, Elizabeth, sadly passed away shortly after her birth in 2010.

“I sought comfort in online support groups but that quickly led to me going down a rabbit hole where I discovered so many things that can go wrong during a pregnancy,” Tess said.

During her second pregnancy, Tess’s psychologist at the Women’s suggested she join a new pilot program called Mind Baby Body – a mindfulness program aimed at supporting pregnant women experiencing anxiety.

“It helped me hold my feet down on the ground and focus on what was going on in that moment,” Tess said. “If a negative thought arose, I learnt to deal with it and move on without that thought consuming me.”

Tess also joined the Parenting With Feeling program – a 10 week program to support new parents to understand and bond with their baby – with her fourth child, Rosie, who was born in 2016.

“It was so enlightening,” she said. “I think everybody should get a shot at de-coding their baby. It taught me that Rosie was a little person with her own needs. You fell a lot less stress when you’re tuned into the needs of your baby and I was taught fail proof ways to better care for her.”