Caring for young mums in a safe and supportive environment
Ten thirty in the morning in the Outpatients Department at Mercy Hospital for Women is a busy time. Women in varying stages of pregnancy fill the room awaiting appointments with obstetricians, social workers, parent educators and midwives. Toddlers play games in the play area and women chat about their other children, or how excited they are to have their first child, or how this pregnancy is easier or harder than the last. For 16 year old Amy and 20 year old Imogen, becoming pregnant wasnï¿½t part of a careful plan or a joint decision. The girls were still in school.
Imogen, Amy and a number of other young women are cared for by the Young Mums Team at Mercy Hospital for Women ï¿½ a small group comprising two midwives, a social worker and an obstetrician. The service was established some 13 years ago and today provides perinatal maternity services for women under 20 years of age. In the words of the teamï¿½s social worker Jo White, its purpose is to provide ï¿½non judgmental, comprehensive care for these women in a safe and supportive environmentï¿½.
Jo White, Social Worker (left) and Julia Miller, Midwife (right) are two members of the Young Mums Team at Mercy Hospital for Women. The team supports young mums such as Imogen Buckle (centre) through pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care.
A non judgmental environment is essential for the women, many of whom are teenagers and feel misunderstood, pigeonholed or judged by others because of their age. ï¿½The Young Mums Team makes things easier,ï¿½ says Amy. ï¿½Itï¿½s more comfortable just having people around you who understand.ï¿½
The team offers antenatal classes, social work services, psychiatry services, obstetric care and general support from the time of referral till after the baby is born. Linked with the Yarra Obstetric Clinic, the teamï¿½s focus is on continuity, ensuring women are supported throughout their pregnancy and not left to fend for themselves after the baby is born. Social support is offered in terms of assisting young mums with Centrelink benefits, education options, budgeting, housing and counselling. Fathers are welcome to attend appointments and antenatal classes and for those who work through the day, night classes are available.
For Imogen, the service has been an invaluable support.
|Imogen Buckle |
ï¿½I found out that I was having a baby unexpectedly and really freaked out. It was the day before my best friendï¿½s 21st birthday. Telling my family and friends was probably the hardest part; they were all really shocked and surprised but theyï¿½re cool now and really excited.
ï¿½When I saw my doctor he immediately put me in touch with the Young Mums Team. I met Julia, the midwife and Jo, the social worker and Iï¿½ve been with them ever since. I do antenatal classes with the other girls as part of the Young Mums Clinic. Itï¿½s more comfortable because weï¿½re all around the same age and weï¿½re all in similar situations. A lot of the girls are due around the same time and we talk and hang out in between classes and while weï¿½re waiting for appointments.
ï¿½Jo, Julia and the rest of the team are really understanding and really easy to relate to. Itï¿½s much easier to go through this with them. It helps that we see the same people all the time; we develop trust and donï¿½t have to keep telling our stories to new people.ï¿½
|The Young Mums Clinic provides antenatal classes for pregnant women under 20 years of age, and their partners. |
The Young Mums Team is available to all young women attending Mercy Hospital for Women. It is a free service and groups are small, promoting trust and comfort among participants. Outside speakers such as community midwives are occasionally invited to attend and young mums are encouraged to form their own support groups after the birth of their baby. In attending the clinic, young mums can come to terms with their pregnancy and share their experience with people who truly understand. ï¿½Iï¿½ve gotten used to everything now,ï¿½ says Imogen. ï¿½The shock has worn off and Iï¿½m excitedï¿½Iï¿½m having a little girl!ï¿½
Published in Our Voice Winter 2013