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Help is available if you are struggling with your emotional wellbeing as a mum

The Mother and Baby Unit at St John of God Burwood Hospital is the only specialist inpatient program in New South Wales for mothers and their babies up to 12 months of age. Clinical Psychologist Ian Smith explains how the intensive support can help mums struggling with their emotional wellbeing.

What is perinatal mental health?

Perinatal and infant mental health is the term we use to describe a mother’s psychological wellbeing and that impact on their quality of bonding with their baby.

Becoming a mother, whether for the first time or not, is period of great change not only to your physical wellbeing but also your lifestyle and relationships. There is a big change on your emotional wellbeing.

Women are more likely to experience anxiety and depression during the perinatal period (pregnancy through to when the child is three years old) than any other time in their lives. This is also known as postnatal depression or post natal anxiety.

St John of God Burwood Hospital mother and baby unit overview

Why get help? Aren’t all mothers finding it tough?

Intervention during pregnancy and in the first year after your baby is born is essential to improve you health as a mother and your ability to nurture your baby. It is also important as it helps infants develop a secure attachment with their mother.

What is the Mother and Baby Unit?

As I mentioned earlier, the Mother and Baby Unit at St John of God Burwood Hospital is the only specialist inpatient program in the state for mothers and babies up to 12 months of age.

The 12-bed secure unit, which is located as a free-standing building within the hospital grounds, features:

12 generous sized single rooms with ensuites and separate safe-sleep space for your baby

  • Double sized beds
  • Facilities for your partner to stay
  • A playroom with facilities to record mother and baby interactions
  • A nursery for babies being cared for by staff
  • A full kitchen, living and dining room
  • An outdoor deck and garden space for the exclusive use of other mothers in the Mother and Baby Unit.

The treatment program

Your treatment program is multifaceted and provides a holistic individualised approach to improving your wellness and function. We aim to give you the confidence to care for your baby.

The program draws on a range of mental health principles and skills including:

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Circle of security
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy

Other therapy offered includes group-based exercise sessions such as mums and bubs yoga, gym sessions and group walks.

Most of our psychological therapy is offered in a group environment with other moths who are admitted to the unit. This approach has been proven to be therapeutic and effective, while also allowing you to connect with others in similar situations and normalise your experience.

Who cares for me during my stay?

Our multidisciplinary team look after not only your emotional wellbeing but your physical health too, to give you the best chance of reaching your recovery goals. We also care for your baby and support your partner as they are also at risk of developing depression or anxiety during the perinatal period.

Your care team will include:

  • Consultant Psychiatrist
  • Medical Registrar
  • Clinical Nurse Consultant
  • Nurses – both for mental health and mother craft
  • Psychologist
  • Diversional Therapist
  • Pharmacist
  • Social Worker

Is there an outpatient program?

On top of our inpatient program, we also offer treatment in our Counselling and Therapy Centre for mums living in the community.

We offer two outpatient groups specifically for mothers:

  • Postnatal Depression group
  • Circle of Security group

These groups help you develop the mental health strength and skills you need to manage your role as a mother, while continuing to care for your child at home.

You can also take part in these groups after you have been discharged from the inpatient program.