New service to support pregnant women with mental health conditions

Dr Charles Su, Clinical Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Charles Su is a Clinical Consultant Psychiatrist at the Women’s Mental Health Service.
12 April 2024 | Mental health | Pregnancy

The Women’s is closing a service gap for pregnant women with mental health conditions.

The new Maternity Psychotropic Assessment Service supports women in early pregnancy or pre-pregnancy in deciding whether to continue taking medications such as anti-depressants.

Mental health conditions during pregnancy are common, affecting an estimated 1 in 5 women.

Dr Charles Su is a Clinical Consultant Psychiatrist at the Women’s Mental Health Service. He says there are safe and effective treatment options for women during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

“This is a scary topic for affected women - we have decades worth of stigma to remove,” Dr Su says.

“About half of the affected people will stop their medication, out of panic, when they discover they're pregnant.

“They think this is the only way to protect their unborn baby – but this decision might not be the best option.”

Understandably, many women are reluctant to take medications during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Many fear the drugs may cross over to the baby and cause complications.

“There is a delicate balance to strike between treating the mother and preventing harm to the baby,” Dr Su says. 

“But there is reassuring news for pregnant women.

“We know from observational research studies that there are safe medications. Exposure during pregnancy does not necessarily mean a baby’s wellbeing is jeopardised.”

Dr Su says the Women’s new service will ensure women with questions about their medication can get answers sooner.

“When we see women at their first antenatal appointment in hospital, they may already have stopped their medication without needing to.

"In our new clinic, we’ll be able to see women much, much earlier, to help them make an informed decision.”

The Women’s new service offers a single session consultation by a perinatal psychiatrist trained in maternity care. 

To access the service, women need a referral from their treating GP or psychiatrist. They do not need to be existing patients of the Women’s.

“We will provide a written assessment with recommendations tailored to the patient's needs,” Dr Su says.

The service does not prescribe medicines. It also cannot provide diagnostic clarification, a second psychiatric opinion or follow-up care.

Find out more: Maternity Psychotropic Assessment Service.

If you or someone you know is experiencing challenges, contact PANDA or Beyond Blue.