Scheme for teen mums helps turn life around

A PILOT scheme in Edinburgh has transformed the fortunes of scores of teenage mothers by using the birth of their child as a catalyst for turning their life around.

And the Family Nurse Partnership in Craigmillar has been so successful that it could be expanded across the country and for a wider age group.

NHS Lothian took on the US-styled approach earlier this year, which sees pregnant women under 20 assigned a nurse who will take them through every stage of the pregnancy, and remain for the first two years of the child's life.

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Now that the first babies are being born, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon took the opportunity to visit the SPACE centre in Craigmillar to meet those involved.

She said: "I've been very impressed by what I've seen today. It works in the US and we had to see if it would work in a Scottish environment.

"We know money is tight, but if we can invest in prevention and early intervention it will save money in the long-term."

There are more than 100 women currently benefiting from the initiative. When a teenager is pregnant the nurse offers advice on birthing preparations as well as stopping smoking, cutting out alcohol and diet help.

Once the baby is born, attention turns to its health, with a focus on breastfeeding, avoiding post-natal depression and finding accommodation.

The nurses also help both parents find work and education to boost the family income.

Pamela Murray, one of the family nurses, said: "That's why we have the word family in there, it's to help the whole set-up. I would love to see this extended because it's made a terrific difference. It helps the women engage with the services available to them, and gives them much more confidence in being a mother." It is understood Holyrood will wait until the scheme is complete in 2012 before taking any decisions to roll it out further.

Linda Anderson, 19, from Oxgangs, has been in close contact with her assigned nurse since the turn of the year. She had a "difficult" pregnancy with son Zack, who is now healthy at three months old.

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"The test for spina bifida came back positive and she was there every step of the way," Linda said.

"I don't know how I would have coped without her, but thankfully that test was wrong.

"As a new mum you don't know how to do things like feed or change a nappy. I was so scared but I knew she was only ever a phone call or a text away."

Her partner, and Zack's father, Dean Brown, 23, added: "It's been great, she's helped me build a CV and even taken me to a few job interviews."