Northern Acute Mother and Baby Mental Health Project

Creating options for mothers and babies – and connecting the people who support them.

Quick links: 
New funding, new options / Guiding principles / Workstreams / Latest updates / Contact us

When a woman experiences acute mental illness during the perinatal period – that is, during pregnancy or in her infant’s first year – the effects can be far-reaching.

Effective early interventions involving family/whanau and other maternity carers are vital, to ensure mother, baby and family/whanau can thrive during the perinatal period and beyond.

The Northern Acute Mother and Baby Mental Health Project is a new initiative designed to assist mothers and babies – and the people who support them – during this time, by significantly expanding acute maternal mental health and infant health services in the Northern Region.

Funding for the project (formerly known as the Acute Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Project) was announced in 2013, allocated in 2014 and all services are expected to be operational by mid-2015. You can read more about the project on these pages, as well as stay in touch with developments throughout the establishment phase via our quarterly updates.

New funding, new options

“Research has demonstrated the importance of effective intervention for mothers and infants with mental disorders and/or AOD (alcohol and other drug) problems. The developing mother-infant relationship is often an essential part of clinical intervention.” (Healthy Beginnings, page v.)

In 2012, the Ministry of Health published Healthy Beginnings: Developing Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Services in New Zealand. This document provides guidance to District Health Boards (DHBs) and other agencies to address the acute mental health needs of mothers and infants in the perinatal period (through pregnancy and the infant’s first year).

In early 2014, new funding was made available to the Northern Region to expand the continuum of acute mental health services available for mothers (and fathers or primary carers) and babies. Planning for enhanced Perinatal and Infant Mental Health services began in 2013, with involvement of Northland DHBWaitemata DHBAuckland DHB and Counties Manukau DHB.

The Ministry of Health has specified the range of services to be developed. These are all focused on the acute continuum.

The funding is allowing DHBs within the region to:

  • expand existing services to provide increased support to families with mental illness, by enhancing community maternal mental health services and establishing a three-bed mother/baby inpatient facility, based initially at the Child and Family Unit in Auckland
  • provide additional resources to community organisations through establishing additional or enhanced community-based respite care facilities and packages of care
  • support greater collaboration between maternity services, maternal mental health services and other services and agencies in the community
  • invest in workforce development – through additional staff being placed in maternal mental health teams and new perinatal competencies and training being developed.

 An additional overview of the project is available here [PDF, 904KB]. 

Why invest in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health services?

“Early intervention builds strength and resilience, which can reduce the need for later high-cost interventions for both mother and infant.” (Healthy Beginnings, page 41.)

As outlined in the first chapter of Healthy Beginnings: Developing Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Services in New Zealand, research indicates that maternal psychiatric disorders occur in at least 15 per cent of pregnancies.

Mental illness during the perinatal period has a detrimental effect on the emerging mother-infant relationship. This can result in delayed social or emotional development and/or significant behavioural problems in infants which may lead to negative outcomes in adulthood.

Research has also demonstrated the importance of effective interventions for mothers and infants with mental health disorders or alcohol or drug problems.

Guiding principles

The proposed model of care for the Northern Acute Mother and Baby Mental Health Project emphasises the mother-baby relationship and the importance of working in partnership with the wider family or whanau. Services, delivered in accordance with the guiding principles outlined in ‘Healthy Beginnings’ (MoH 2012), will:

  • be recovery focused and strengths based
  • address the needs of the mother, the infant and the mother-infant relationship
  • be mindful of the wider family/whanau
  • be culturally responsive
  • take a whanau ora approach for Maori
  • work in partnership with other services
  • co-ordinate and collaborate with maternity and other mental health and addiction services.

Five workstreams established

Government funding was announced in 2013 and five workstreams were established to ensure a focused approach for each area of the project. Their Terms of Reference describe the purpose, composition and reporting structure of the five workstreams, representing the services that have been identified for development across the Northern Region. Please click on the links below for detailed information on each workstream.

These five teams report to the Acute Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Steering Group, which works to terms of reference. Group representation is from across the region and includes clinical and management representatives from Maternal and Infant Mental Health, Women’s Health, Midwifery, Maori and Pacific Health and consumers.

Latest updates

The Northern Acute Mother and Baby Mental Health Project releases an email update every quarter. You can read previous updates via the links below. To sign up to receive the updates by email, please email Project Manager Michelle Ball.

May 2014 [PDF, 268KB]  February 2014 [PDF, 461KB] December 2013
June 2013  July 2014 [PDF, 277]  

Contact us

If you have a question, require information that is not provided on this site, or would like to sign up to receive our quarterly email updates, please email Project Manager Michelle Ball.