Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has announced that the Women’s Wellbeing Clinic is fully open for regular consultation sessions following the recommencement of services at Al Wakra Hospital after its designation as a COVID-19 facility. The service focuses on promoting wellbeing in women throughout their pregnancy, birth, and the 12 months after birth. More than 2000 women have been screened for their wellbeing needs since the clinic was established in July 2020.
Located in Al Wakra Hospital, the service is designed to provide a holistic approach to the physical and emotional health of women through their pregnancy journey. Recognizing that life changes around pregnancy can make women more vulnerable to mental health problems. one of the target audiences for the service is women that experience maternal mental challenges. The service also provides bereavement support, such as in the case of still births or infant death, where counselling is provided to both husband and wife. To access the service, women can either request a referral from their doctor or contact the Women’s Mental Health and Wellbeing service by calling the tollfree number 16000 and selecting the confidential Mental Health Helpline option.
Dr. Sazgar Abdullah Hamad, clinical lead for the Virtual Women’s and Perinatal Service at HMC said the team have been observing incidence rates of anxiety and depression among women that is comparable to international data. “With the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we are seeing more cases of medium to high anxiety among pregnant women and young mothers. The mother’s concerns are mainly due to feelings of uncertainty related to the place of delivery and changes in the healthcare teams, such as doctors, nurses and midwives, due to COVID-19 requirements. For expatriate women the additional worry includes a fear of being alone during and after delivery, without the help of family at this vulnerable time for them.”
Dr. Hamad added that the service is being adapted to local needs and customs: “It is still a relatively new service and we were mindful that maternal mental health is often a challenging topic for women and their families to acknowledge and discuss, even with professional healthcare teams. We therefore enforce strict privacy protocols for each consultation to give women more confidence in speaking out.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a general increase in anxiety and stress levels in populations across the world, but this experience has also helped increase the public dialogue about mental health and thereby reduce some of the stigma inhibiting people from seeking professional help. The Women Wellbeing Clinic operates a confidential service and will enlist the aid of maternal mental health professionals to provide specialist care where needed.
Ms. Jussara Da Silva Brito, Clinical Nurse Specialist expressed her delight at the reopening of the clinic which provides a much-needed service. “By end of last year, we had over 65 patients being treated in both face-to-face and online counselling sessions. For infection control reasons we had to cease face-to-face sessions earlier this year but where possible, we tried to continue with telephone consultations for those patients who really needed our support. We are very excited to be able to meet our patients again as the close human interaction can be an important factor in treatment success.”
“Our expansion plans include targeted training for all our nurse-midwives to be able to detect and support mothers with anxiety and depression. We will also reinstate the ‘midwife homecare service’, which screens all mothers following discharge from hospital after giving birth. Currently we offer screening, triage and counseling in English and Arabic and our plan is to provide the screening questionnaire in Hindi, which is the third most widely spoken language of our patients,” added Ms. Brito.
The Women’s Wellbeing Clinic supports Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2016 – 2022 principle that healthy women will lead to healthy pregnancies. The clinic contributes to the national goal of achieving improvement in the level of healthy women and healthy pregnancies, which includes assessment of prenatal, perinatal, and post-natal care.
Source and cover image: HMC
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