Duchess of Cambridge visits Bethlem Royal Hospital

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Duchess of Cambridge visits Mother and Baby Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital

Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge paid a special visit to the Mother and Baby Unit at Bethlem Royal Hospital on Wednesday, 24 January, to find out more about the challenges and issues surrounding maternal mental health.


The Duchess spoke to mothers on the unit about their experiences and visited the sensory room where mothers play with their babies. She also saw the video therapy room where mothers are filmed interacting with their babies to follow the development of their relationship.


The Duchess met with staff including: nurses, midwives, health visitors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nursery nurses, occupational therapists and social workers. She discussed topics such as the provision of maternal mental health services across the country and the importance of translating research into clinical practice.


The Duchess is keen to continue developing an understanding of the challenges and issues surrounding maternal mental health, to learn what support is available, and to hear at first-hand about the science underpinning our understanding of the biological influences on maternal mental health.


Dr Gertrude Seneviratne, Lead of the Perinatal Mental Health Services, Consultant in General Adult and Perinatal Psychiatry, and Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Faculty, said: “The arrival of a baby should be the happiest time in a woman’s life, but for some women this is not the case - our research shows that one in four women experience mental health problems during pregnancy or shortly after the baby is born.


“Mothers often arrive here in much mental distress, feeling that they can’t do things for themselves, but by keeping mother and baby together and providing a range of specialist treatment and therapy, women do recover and can bond with their child.


“Today is a very special occasion for us. It means a great deal to staff and patients that The Duchess was able to spend some time meeting them – especially as she is a mother herself.”


The Mother and Baby Unit at the Bethlem Royal Hospital is part of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The 13-bed unit was set up for women who develop or have a relapse of serious mental illness during pregnancy or following the birth of their baby.


Mothers on the unit are admitted with their babies and supported by a range of professionals. Treatment is family-focused and can include a range of therapies including medication, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), couple or family therapy, occupational therapy and parenting skills.


Dr Matthew Patrick, Chief Executive of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are delighted to welcome The Duchess today. Our Mother and Baby Unit at the Bethlem hospital is a very special place, run by expert and passionate staff who provide treatment based on up to date evidence and research. We hope that The Duchess’ visit will help raise awareness of this important issue.”


As part of the visit, Her Royal Highness spent time with the Trust’s partners at the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, where she met with senior academics conducting research in perinatal psychiatry. 


Professor Carmine Pariante, Professor of Biological Psychiatry at the IoPPN, who is also a Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at the Trust, has shown the hormonal environment in utero is influenced by mental health problems, leading to measurable changes in the development of infants and affecting their ability to deal with stress.


The Duchess of Cambridge’s visit comes after a King’s College London study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on January 4, revealed one in four pregnant women have mental health problems.


Mother and Baby Unit, Bethlem Royal Hospital  

The Mother and Baby Unit offers treatment, therapy and care which is not offered on the same scale in any other unit in the UK. The average length of stay is 8 to 12 weeks.

The unit offers various forms of therapy, life skills, health skills, leisure activities, baby massage and dance therapy. The unit also treats mothers with medication where needed, and supports the mothers mother in developing a relationship with her infant in order to reduce the impact of the mother’s illness on the child.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust 

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust provides the widest range of mental health and substance misuse services in the UK. The trust treats people in south London and offers specialist services to people from across the country. Our aim is to be a leader inimproving health and wellbeing - locally, nationally and globally.

As well as serving the communities of south London in Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark, Bexley, Greenwich and Wandsworth, we provide over 50 specialist services for children and adults across the UK including a Mother and Baby Unit, Eating Disorders, National Psychosis Unit, and National Autism Unit.

Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London

The IoPPN is a world leader in the research, study and practice of psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience and related disciplines. It has three world class divisions, Psychology & System Sciences, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, which share a vision to understand how the mind and brain work and use this understanding to improve quality of life and clinical outcomes of individuals with mental health problems or neurological disorders. With the incorporation of neuroscience into the Institute it is in the unique position of being a global research centre that can truly integrate neuroscience into mental health research.

King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2017/18 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 26,500 students (of whom nearly 10,400 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and nearly 6,900 staff. The university is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

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