New scheme helps Forth Valley mums find connections

Sharlene Hill is one of the first volunteers for a new befriending service for mums from Aberlour Child Care Trust
Sharlene Hill is one of the first volunteers for a new befriending service for mums from Aberlour Child Care Trust

Pregnancy and motherhood can be a daunting time for women, but a new initiative aims to help vulnerable mums.

Aberlour Child Care Trust has launched a befriending service in Forth Valley for females experiencing mental health issues during pregnancy. The Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support scheme will help mums from the time of conception through to the baby’s first birthday and follows increasing awareness of perinatal mental health – the period before and after a child is born.

This time is when a mum is most likely to experience difficulties including domestic abuse, homelessness, mental health problems, financial issues and depression.

Pregnancy and post-natal women experience a surge or hormones as well as huge changes at home, often coping with little sleep and a shift in family dynamics.

Liz Nolan, assistant director for Central and Forth Valley Aberlour branch, said: “The high human cost of perinatal mental illness has been starkly highlighted by a recent NSPCC report, drawing on data taken from confidential enquiries and surveys conducted over the past several years.

“The evidence suggests that suicide and psychiatric issues were the leading causes of indirect maternal death in the UK.

“The consequences for children are clear; perinatal mental ill health can impact upon foetal development and from a very early age children can be placed into care or may be born into a challenging environment that will impact negatively on parent/child attachment and developmental milestones.

“We want to ensure that every child gets the very best start in life, whatever their background or circumstances.”

Aberlour Perinatal Befriending Support offers a tailored service based on individual need through a programme provided by a co-ordinator and trained volunteers.

The volunteers are not affiliated with social services and they provide support and advice to new mums to help them realise they are not alone.

Support co-ordinator Angie Rennie said: “Although post-natal depression is well documented, it’s only recently that perinatal mental health has made headlines for being a major concern for vulnerable women and their children.

“If a mum-to-be experiences poor mental health during her pregnancy, and does not receive the appropriate, timely support, she is at greater risk of harming herself or her baby.

“Our brand new service provides dedicated volunteers, trained to act as positive and supportive role models to vulnerable women, by offering support throughout their pregnancies, and up to their child’s first birthday.”

Aberlour has now finished training its first cohort of volunteers and the project is the first of its kind in Scotland.

As well as providing a friendly, supportive ear the volunteers will also help families to access support from other relevant services in their communities, such baby classes and health checks.

If you are interested in volunteering as a befriender, or with any other role with Aberlour, visit www.aberlour.org.uk/volunteer.