NSW's first mother and baby unit for severe mental illness


Genevieve Whitlam had no history of mental illness until one week after her son Arlo was born, when she was plunged into a devastating postnatal psychosis.

The psychosis, caused from a "raging infection and lack of sleep", left Ms Whitlam needing many weeks of hospitalisation, initially in the public system and then on a private ward.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and new mum Genevieve Whitlam and six-month-old son Arlo.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and new mum Genevieve Whitlam and six-month-old son Arlo.Credit:Peter Rae

It wasn't until she was in the private mothers and babies ward that she was finally able to bond with her newborn, who is now six-months-old.

But, in a NSW-first, a public mother and baby unit will be built at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown for new mums and expected mums from across the state.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the specialist unit was a crucial development in the delivery of mental healthcare.

"We want women to receive the specialist mental health care they need, as well as the opportunity to form a bond with their babies in these all-important formative months," she said.

Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said the unit would support 120 women a year with acute or ongoing severe mental illness.

"Perinatal mental illness can impact a parent's relationship with their baby, family dynamics and the ongoing development of a child," Mrs Taylor said.

Each of the eight bedrooms at the unit will be able to accommodate a mother, up to two infants aged under one and a partner or family member.

There will be space and equipment for antenatal care, a 24-hour respite nursery, a mothercraft room, play area and communal areas for multiple families with children.

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