by the Northern Health Trust press officers
New mothers in the Northern Health Trust can now avail of a free support programme to help them prepare for the birth of their first child.
The Early Intervention Transformation Programme (EITP) provides parents with tailored and practical information about how their baby is developing and how best they can care for them when they arrive.
The programme is offered to first time, low risk, mothers and runs alongside clinical appointments at six different stages during the programme; 16, 25, 28, 31, 34 and 36 weeks. It is currently available in Larne, Whiteabbey, Antrim, Ballymena and Mid Ulster with plans to roll it out Trustwide.
Barbara Strawbridge, EITP Implementation Manager in the Northern Trust, explained how valuable it can be: “In days gone by mothers would have stayed in hospital for up to a week after birth during which time they learnt how to care and support their baby. Nowadays, mothers can be discharged home within the same day so these group sessions give them practical, down-to-earth support and advice so that, when they do go home, they feel confident and happy in their new role.
Partners are also encouraged to attend the sessions which cover baby’s brain development, labour, handling, feeding, bathing as well as looking at any social and emotional needs mothers may have.
“It’s also important that new mothers have a support network in place so the programme allows participants to form friendships with those at a similar stage in pregnancy. They can then support each other in the weeks, months and years ahead” Barbara indicated.
The first group of parents to avail of the service have now had their babies with one mother commenting: "The assurance of knowing others are experiencing the same ups and downs as you makes pregnancy much easier. You will leave armed with knowledge, confidence and a support group for life. The midwives are fantastic and will guide you through this wonderful time".
One father said of the programme: “Midwives were brilliant and it got me/us thinking about things at the right times. Took a lot of worry and anxiety away about a new experience".
Any new mothers who wish to avail of the programme should indicate their interest at their booking in appointment.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) coordinates the EITP across Northern Ireland and Siobhan Slavin, EITP Change Manager at the PHA, said: “This new model of providing antenatal care and education together in a group based way in all Trusts including Northern is an excellent example of the benefits that early intervention can have. This initiative allows women and their partner to attend for their antenatal care as required and also receive antenatal education at the same appointment. Through early intervention, we can focus on the future health and wellbeing of child and mother, which can have a positive influence on the long-term development of the child and have positive impact on the mother and wider family circle.”
The Early Intervention Transformation Programme (EITP) is a Northern Ireland Executive/Atlantic Philanthropies Delivering Social Change Signature Programme, funded jointly by the Delivering Social Change fund, DoH, DE, DoJ, DfC, DfE and The Atlantic Philanthropies. Coordinated by the PHA, EITP aims to improve outcomes for children and young people across Northern Ireland through embedding early intervention approaches.