'Mas matter!': Derry mothers call for improved maternity and perinatal services

Women in Derry said they are demanding a greater voice in maternity and perinatal services as ‘shortfalls in provision are putting the mental health of mothers at risk’.

Mothers and health advocates have spoken openly about their experiences with the health service and called for urgent improvements in care, including required training for all healthcare professionals on Postpartum Psychosis, a serious and life-threatening condition.

The mums described their lived experiences to healthcare professionals and MLAs at a special event in the Guildhall on Friday in an effort to bring changes.

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Organised by the Maternal Advocacy and Support (Mas) Project, the event in the Guildhall brought together mothers and mental health champions to launch a resource detailing the shortfalls in care by many women.

Attending the special Mas event in the Guildhall were participants from Women Centre Derry and Strathfoyle Women's Centre.

Clare Anderson, Mas Project Coordinator, said: “Women have highlighted key areas that would make a difference to their experience such as compassion, non-judgement, better communication, signposting to services and earlier identification of a perinatal mental health problem. We understand how stretched the health service is and how hard they are working but we want health leaders to see the care from the perspective of the women they treat.”

The Mas project, led by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency (WRDA), provides peer support and the opportunity for women to share their lived experience with the aim of improving services in the future.

As part of this project, the women developed a flyer as a resource for the healthcare sector highlighting what changes could be made that would improve care.

Speakers at the event included Mark H Durkan SDLP; Catherine Barr, Women Centre Derry; Leslie Bamford, Strathfoyle Women's Centre; Clare Anderson, Mas Project Coordinator; Joyce McKittrick, Head of Health Visiting, Western Trust; Caroline McLoughlin, Aware NI.as well as personal stories by three local mothers highlighting areas that could be improved.

Among those attending the launch of a new resource detailing shortfalls in care were Ciara Ferguson, Sinn Fein; Joyce McKittrick, Health Visiting Lead, Western Trust; Fiona Hegarty, Derry Mas worker; Mark H Durkan, SDLP; Catherine Barr, Women Centre Derry Centre Manager; Shaun Harkin, People Before Profit; Rachel Ferguson, Alliance and Caroline McLoughlin, Aware NI.

The Women Centre Derry and Strathfoyle Women’s centre run a programme which provides Maternal Advocacy support for women within the Derry and Strabane District Council area that are experiencing low maternal mental health.

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To find out more about the Mas project, you can visit the website at: wrda.net/maternal-advocacy-and-support-project-the-mas/

Women Centre Derry participant, Danielle Collins and Derry Mas worker, Fiona Hegarty attended the Mas Project event in the Guildhall.
The event was sponsored by Unison and attended by Lesley Bamford, Manager Strathfoyle Women’s Centre; Clare Anderson, Mas Project Coordinator; Rebecca Lovell, Lived experience speaker; Caroline McLoughlin, Aware NI; Megan Baldrick, Lived Experience speaker; Mark H Durkan, Joyce McKittrick, Health Visiting Lead and Catherine Barr, Women Centre Derry Centre Manager.