Perinatal Mental Health

Perinatal Mental Health

Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service (SPMHS)

Perinatal mental health problems are those that occur during pregnancy and up to one year following delivery.  They are relatively common and can range in severity from mild to more severe disorders.  Up to 1 in 5 women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. If you have suffered from a mental health problem in the past, you may be more vulnerable to relapse at this time.

It is important to remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health during the preconception phase, pregnancy, and also the postpartum period.  Pregnancy can cause a lot of emotional changes including feeling joy, happiness, regret, sadness, responsibility, and fear.  Your feelings about yourself and your future can also change.  It is important to remember that it is normal to experience these types of feelings.  However, if it is causing prolonged upset and disturbance, you may require additional support. 

The Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service (SPMHS) consists of a multidisciplinary team of clinicians with specialist training and expertise to address various complex mental health needs of women in the perinatal period.

The perinatal period is a time of both physical and mental change for women and while the physical impacts are often recognised and discussed, emotional changes may be forgotten or given less attention.  A unique aspect of perinatal mental health issues is their potential to affect the relationship between mother, child and family unit with consequent later development of emotional and behavioural difficulties in the child. 

Many women feel anxious about being a good parent and if you will be able to look after your baby well, particularly if it is their first pregnancy.  This is perfectly normal and many women experience these feelings.

This is nothing to feel ashamed of. With the right help and support, you will get back on track and begin to grow in confidence as a Mother, and enjoy being with your baby.

You may need additional support about your mental health if;
  • Your symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks.
  • Your symptoms interfere with your ability to work or to carry out your usual day-to-day activities.
  • Your symptoms cause considerable upset and distress.
  • You have suffered from mental health difficulties in the past.
 What we do:

Our Perinatal Mental Health Service assesses, treats, and supports women and their partners with mental health problems, and bonding or emotional difficulties caring for their babies, both during pregnancy and the postnatal period until the infant is 12 months old.

We provide a holistic approach to care. This includes medication, support, psychotherapy and psychological therapy sessions and groups, social work, and occupational therapy input according to the family’s needs. 

We work jointly with GPs, Obstetricians, the Neonatal Team, and Midwives, as well as other community mental health services, if involved with the patient already. Our patients are seen in CUMH.

The primary aims of the service are:

  • to improve the health and well-being of women, their babies, and their wider families through support and increased awareness of mental illness in women during pregnancy and after childbirth
  • early identification of those women who have, or are at risk of, mental health problems
  • provision of effective and evidence-based interventions
Who is the SPMHS for?
  • Women who are 18 years of age or over
  • Who are either pregnant or in their first postnatal year
  • Women who are experiencing symptoms of depression and or anxiety or other mental illness
  • Women who have a severe and enduring mental illness or are at risk of developing one
  • Women who have a diagnosis of an enduring mental illness such as: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, other non-organic psychoses, bipolar affective disorder, and recurrent moderate to severe depressive disorder (with or without psychotic symptoms).
Conditions we treat:
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety/Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Postnatal depression
  • Puerperal psychosis
  • PTSD relating to birth trauma

Any woman attending the hospital can be referred to the service at any stage of their pregnancy and up to twelve months postnatally.

External referrals are accepted from a range of our community partners including GPs and Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT).

These can be posted to us at the address below, or emailed to the PMHS at:

We also accept referrals from clinics and staff within the hospital.

Referrals are screened by the Multidisciplinary Team on a weekly basis, and appointments are posted to women directly. Urgent referrals are triaged within two weeks.

We do not accept self-referrals.
How to be referred:

Please see your GP, Midwife, or Obstetrician if you feel you require a referral to the SPMHS

How to contact us:

Contact us on 021 423 4335

Hours of service:

Monday – Thursday 09.00-1700

Friday 09.00 – 1600


If you are concerned about your mental health and or are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others, please seek help as soon as possible. 

  • Emergency services – 999
  • SouthDoc - 0818 355 999
  • Your GP
  • Attend A&E or the CUMH Emergency Department

Cork Crisis Support 

It is important that you speak to your GP, Public Health Nurse, obstetrician, or midwife if you feel you need support regarding your mental health. Your healthcare provider will be able to guide you and advise if you require input from the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service. This service is available to women during their pregnancy and up to 12 months after the birth of their baby.

The Team:

The perinatal mental health team comprises a comprehensive multidisciplinary team who co-ordinate the assessment, treatment, and care of women in our care.

Our team consists of:

  • Dr. Deirdre Muller Neff, Consultant Psychiatrist
  • Dr. Thomas Ryle, Consultant Psychiatrist
  • Dr Freda Wynne, Senior Clinical Psychologist
  • Breda Bird, Perinatal Mental Health Midwife
  • Louise Chawke, Perinatal Mental Health Midwife
  • Alison Bonar, Senior Social Worker Perinatal Mental Health
  • Eithne Lynch, Senior Occupational Therapist
  • Rachel O’ Donoghue, Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Elaine Healy, Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Carrie O’Brien, Administrative Staff
Links and resources:

General Information on Mental Health during the Perinatal Period

Mental Health in Pregnancy

What are Perinatal Mental Health Services

Planning a Pregnancy for Women with Mental Health Problems

Postnatal Depression

Perinatal OCD

Postpartum Psychosis

Information for Women with a History of Mental Health Problems

Lithium in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Valporate in Women of Childbearing Age

What is a Mother and Baby Unit

Information for Family and Carers

Postnatal Depression (For Family and Carers)

Perinatal OCD (For Family and Carers)

Postpartum Psychosis (For Family and Carers)

Additional Links and Support

HSE SPMHS National Website

Mindfulness - Compassionate Mind

Belly Breathing – video and technique

Relaxation Exercises

Guided Audio - Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Mothers in Mind Booklet - The Coombe

My Child - Guide to pregnancy, baby and toddler health

Cuidiu - Caring support for parenthood

Tusla - Community based supports

Action on postpartum psychosis

Best beginnings

Maternal OCD


Relate - Relationship support including couple and family counselling

The Samaritans



Women's Aid

Matrescence - Ted Talks

Coping with Emotions After a C-Section