Atlas Centre offers peer support for mums

Atlas Women’s Centre in Lisburn is participating in a project, offering peer support to women who are pregnant or have children up to the age of three.

The Maternity Advocacy Support (Mas) Project, which has just completed its first year, was set up by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA) to support women at grassroots level within the community in partnership with eight women’s centres in Lisburn, Belfast and Londonderry. Participants have benefited from a range of sessions designed to support their mental health and promote emotional wellbeing.

The project, supported by The National Lottery Community Fund, offers a platform for women to talk about their experiences in the health care system and advise on service areas that could be improved or developed for pregnant and postnatal women experiencing mental health issues in Northern Ireland.

The group is calling for improvements in provision in a number of key areas including: continuity of care, better resources in primary care, breastfeeding support and the creation of a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland.

Clare Anderson, Mas Project Co-ordinator, said: “It’s essential that women are listened to by our politicians and those leading the health service. By understanding women’s lived experiences, there is the potential to improve services. Early intervention is very important and providing support at an early stage can make a big difference.

“Continuity of care is essential. Seeing the same medical staff develops trust and allows women to speak more openly about how they’re feeling. Some women felt that opportunities for early identification of perinatal mental health problems and support were missed because they saw someone new on each visit.”

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