Wales to open first mother and baby unit for women’s mental health support during pregnancy

A new mother and baby unit is opening in Wales to help women who experience serious mental health problems during pregnancy and following the birth of their child.

Uned Gobaith (‘Unit of Hope’) in Swansea will be the only inpatient unit of its kind in Wales to offer multidisciplinary mental health care from 32 weeks of pregnancy and until their baby is one year old.

Until now, mothers who needed serious mental health care have either been supported in the community, admitted to mental health wards without their babies, or have had to travel to one of the specialist mother and baby units in England.

The closest unit for women living in Wales is in Bristol.

Uned Gobaith (‘Unit of Hope’) in Swansea is currently the only inpatient unit of its kind in Wales.

Uned Gobaith is due to open in mid-April and will be accepting mothers and babies for treatment immediately.

Toni Evans, 34, from Neath Port Talbot, experienced serious mental health problems during and after her second pregnancy.

Tonie said: "It just got worse and worse as the pregnancy went on. The depression just got unbearable.

"Once the baby was born, I started medication straight away, but within two weeks my mental health deteriorated even further."

Toni was seen by a mental health crisis team and with the support of her midwife, she was admitted to an acute mental health ward for three days, but without her daughter.

Toni holding her daughter Sarah Credit: Swansea Bay University Health Board

While she was in hospital, Toni was given the opportunity to go to a specialist mother and baby mental health unit in Derby.

"At this point, I couldn’t really think, I couldn’t answer questions so my husband had to say yes for me," Toni said.

Toni and her daughter Sarah spent seven weeks in the unit, but she said distance between the rest of her family was "very hard".

"My husband would come and visit but it had to be every other weekend because he had to take time off work and take my son out of school," Toni said.

"And it cost a lot of money, driving up there and staying in a hotel. A unit here is just going to make an unbelievable difference for mothers in Wales. It definitely would have made a difference to me."

The Swansea mother and baby unit will open in mid-April.

Katie Dean, a mother from Cardiff had a similar experience to Toni last year. After a traumatic birth, Katie struggled with postnatal depression and had to move to a mother and baby unit in Exeter for eight months. 

She said she was "left isolated" from her family as a result.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister, Eluned Morgan, said "it is fantastic news" that Wales will have its own unit.

“This will make a significant difference to the experience of new mothers as they will be able to get the specialist support that they and their babies need closer to home.

“We all know that the pandemic restrictions have added to the challenges during this last year and so I welcome the addition of this facility which will complement our strengthened perinatal community offer.”

Janet Williams Associate Service Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at Swansea Bay University Health Board said: "When Uned Gobaith opens, we will be able to help women like Toni who are experiencing serious mental health problems, and their babies, in a safe environment much closer to home.

“This important service will significantly enhance perinatal care services across Wales and we are very proud to be hosting it in Swansea Bay University Health Board."