Accessing the right kind of help can transform the lives of new mums - Julia Abel
Pregnancy, birth and caring for a new baby can involve some of the most rewarding experiences in life. Yet being a new parent can also be full of difficult and isolating momentsnote-0.
Mental ill health at this time is common, affecting one in five mothers and one in ten fathers; parents facing greater barriers in their lives and those lacking support structures are particularly affected.
As we struggle to maintain social connections and combat loneliness and anxiety during the pandemic, new and expectant mothers, their partners, and infants face further challenges.
The Scottish Government has committed £50 million over four years to improving support for mothers and families struggling with poor mental health during and after pregnancy.
As well as improving statutory mental health services, Inspiring Scotland is managing a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund providing annual funding of up to £1 million to 15 charities across the country to provide vital community-based support for parents and families.
For those who don’t meet the threshold for acute mental health services, this kind of assistance can be a lifeline, helping parents feel less isolated, more confident, and able to reach out to others.
Many parents benefit from specialist counselling support and therapy. Others are matched with volunteer peer supporters who provide non-judgemental practical and emotional support.
Amy was an isolated young parent who felt unable to cope when she was referred to Home-Start North Glasgow, a charity that matches volunteers with families in need of support. By building a trusting relationship with Debbie, a mum with teenage children of her own, Amy developed the skills, confidence, and strength to bond with her baby and make positive changes in her life.
For expectant mums who lack support structures, accessing the right kind of help before and during birth can be transformative.
When she arrived in Scotland seeking asylum in February, Dawn was pregnant and facing a difficult and unpredictable future. She was referred to Amma Birth Companions, another Glasgow-based charity working with women who would otherwise experience pregnancy and birth alone.
Dawn was introduced to a volunteer companion who supported her through her antenatal appointments and was there when she gave birth to a healthy boy. According to Dawn, the practical and emotional support she received made her feel like part of a family.
We know that parents who feel well and supported are better able to maintain bonds with their infants. The foundations of physical, cognitive, and emotional development are set early in life, from the beginning of pregnancy through to a child’s second birthday.
Protecting the health of parents and carers and supporting them to develop warm and secure relationships with their babies is vitally important, not only for them, but for the wellbeing of society.
From the Borders to Caithness, Glasgow to the Western Isles, there are many more organisations working across Scotland to support parents, carers and families coping in difficult circumstances.
A directory of organisations and further information about the charities supported by the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund can be found at www.inspiringscotland.org.uk
Julia Abel, Head of Development & Partnership with Inspiring Scotland .
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