Parent Infant Unit provides support to primary caregivers

Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Parent Infant Unit provides support to primary caregivers Parent Infant Unit Acting Nurse Unit Manager Sharna Togher and experienced staff work with expectant mothers and parents.
PIU cares for parents and primary caregivers of babies aged under one year and women in their last trimester who have mental illness and need extra support.

For some parents and primary caregivers the birth of a new baby is an occasion marred by mental health issues such as anxiety and postnatal depression but Bendigo Health’s Parent Infant Unit (PIU) is there to help.

PIU Acting Nurse Unit Manager Sharna Togher said clients stay on-site with their infant in the five-bed unit, where they are supported by medical staff, psychiatrists, exercise physiologists and nursing staff with backgrounds in mental health, paediatrics and midwifery.

“When you separate the primary caregiver and the baby that impacts on the baby’s mental health,” Sharna said. “A lot of our service is based around the Circle of Security attachment.”

Senior Mental Health Clinician Elyse Davies explained this was an international parenting program understanding children’s emotional needs and being able to meet those despite our own struggles which are linked to our experiences of being parented as well.

“It gives a roadmap about what good enough parenting looks like. Society holds up this perfect mother ideal. There’s expectations that we should know what we’re doing.”

Former PIU client Monique admitted she was “so hard on herself”.

Monique was “terrified” of coming to the PIU. “I had this idea in my head that I would have zero autonomy and that really wasn’t the case. It took a good day before I started to relax but the nurses were amazing,” she said.

Monique stayed in the PIU for about five weeks, arriving when her second child was three weeks old.

“I tried to go home a couple of times but came back. When I was at home I would need to get my children dressed but I’d tell myself ‘you can’t do that’ and then sit for hours. I wouldn’t leave the house for weeks at a time because I was too anxious.”

PIU works with primary caregivers on these concerns and more including taking clients on public outings, Elyse said.

“It’s about community engagement and building self-confidence. It’s great that we can help get caregivers in that,” she said.

For parents such as Monique the services provided by PIU have been life changing.

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