New mother and baby mental health unit for Westmead Hospital

Emma and husband Tim with their beautiful family.

Pregnant women and new mothers experiencing mental illness will soon have access to specialist care alongside their babies at NSW’s second Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) at Westmead Hospital.

The purpose-built 8-bed unit will be based at Redbank House within Westmead Hospital, increasing support for NSW mothers who require care in a hospital for perinatal mental illness.

It offers integrated mental health care with access to maternity, obstetric, paediatric and other medical services.

The new unit has been co-designed with women with a lived experience of mental illness, their families and clinicians – including mother-of-three Emma Britton, who went through post-natal depression and anxiety.

“I know how desperate I was for help from people who understood me when I was at my lowest,” Emma said.

“Knowing that there will be a place out there that anyone can access, that truly understands everything a mother struggling with perinatal mental illness is feeling, and can give them the guidance they need to get back on their feet, is what truly motivates me.

This service is a safe place, one where women can gain the strength and courage to get back out into the world a healthier person, to learn so much about themselves as mothers, and be the best mother they can be.”

The unit will have a landscaped outdoor area for exercise, relaxation and family visits. It will also include space and equipment for antenatal care, a 24-hour respite nursery, a parent craft room, a retreat room, and consultation and group therapy rooms.

Professor Bill Brakoulias, Mental Health executive director at Western Sydney Local Health District, said the Westmead MBU is a welcome addition to the mental health services delivered in western Sydney.

“Greater western Sydney is a rapidly growing region with the highest birth rate in NSW,” Professor Brakoulias said.

“We want to ensure all mothers have access to the specialist perinatal and infant mental health care they need, as well as the opportunity to form a bond with their babies in those all-important, formative months.

“This state-wide service for mothers and babies will be available to local mums, as well as those from other metro, rural and regional areas in NSW.”

Emma Britton with her sons Oliver, Elliot and Rory.

“This new mother and baby unit at Westmead Hospital will enable up to 120 women each year to receive specialist multi-disciplinary mental health care during the crucial early bonding period, without needing to be separated from their babies,” Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said.

“Each bedroom is large enough to accommodate a mother, their baby, partner and other children, and has been specially designed to meet different levels of care.”

Construction of the Westmead MBU is expected to commence in late 2021 and will be completed in 2022. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital MBU is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by early 2022.

Both new units are part of the NSW Government’s $700 million Statewide Mental Health Infrastructure Program – the single biggest investment in mental health infrastructure to date.