In May, I was as busy as a bee in pink high heels can be. A year of planning , with my super PMHP colleagues, was coming together , as we were due to launch our 2nd UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week. Our small little group created the campaign to shine a light on perinatal mental illness, to show how and where to access support and provide women with the tools to start the difficult conversation where they ask for help.
The night before the week launched, I found myself trekking down Oxford Street in London , with frozen hands , on my way to a radio station. I was going to be talking about the week, why we created it and a little about my own experience about Postpartum Psychosis and anxiety. I am used to the kind of questions I get and always prepare myself for the shock and bewilderment from the interviewers when I tell them about the time I thought I could cut through the clouds with a pair of plastic scissors, or found myself apparently floating in the corner of the room. And when I tell them I was so utterly and desperately scared of my own baby , that I would shake uncontrollably when I was with him and pulled my hair from its roots in a despair that I never thought possible, they gasp. Gasp because surely the law of nature is that once baby pops out of your vagina or tummy, you fall into its arms in a haze of glory filled tears and feel on top of the world even though you cant do a wee or a poo for fear of bursting your overtight stitches.
But this interview threw up a question I hadn’t had before. As I was rattling on about being a human maraca , what will all the meds I had to take to stop me thinking I was cartwheeling through the air , I said ” and my son knows what happened to me “. The interviewer stopped me and seemed shocked. He asked me to repeat myself and I did and he asked how I did that ? How did I tell my son about the horrific illness I had , that was brought on after his birth? How did I tell him that mummys marbles flew off the table and rolled around everywhere so much, that she fell on them so hard and was so hurt, she struggled to get up. The marbles kept spinning and going backwards and forwards and round and round at a million miles an hour and mummy didn’t know how to make them stop. It was if they had a mind of their own and they wanted to roll away from where mummy wanted them to be. Mummy wanted to marbles in her mind to stay in there and all sit in the right place but they didn’t. They rolled off, some got damaged , some got lost. Mummy truly felt like her marbles were gone forever and that they would never be replaced.
My son is now 8 but has known since he was around 3 about my illness. Or as he so beautifully named it ” Mummy’s poorly head”. What happened to me after he was born was life changing and the effect of it was felt for such a long time , that to me , it seemed important to tell him about it.
Until he was around 3 , I took medication 3 times a day. I was still on my hospital dose and taking them became part of my routine. I had Thursdays off work and would take Joe to cookery class at the childrens centre , watch him pour flour over his head, mix some cake mix together with his splodgy sticky hands and then present me with a snot covered concoction at the end for me to lovingly eat. Mmm, yummy. I would then hose him down and we would go off for lunch at Wagamama where he would toddle up to the waitress and say ” Me want nuba 981 but no coocumba”. He would then sit on the floor under the table with his batman figures until his food arrived ( he hung out under tables until he was 5 and would often have an entire 7 course meal under there in the dark, happy as larry. He would emerge looking like he had rolled around in tomato soup whilst living in a bush), and one epic day, I turned round to see him standing up in the high chair, merrily doing a wee all over the seasonal greens in his chicken noodle soup. Whilst bribing him to put his penis back in his pants and explaining to the waitress that he wont be finishing his food as it’s now been seasoned with his own piss, I remembered I had to take my medication. Joe would see my empty my entire handbag onto the wagamama table – 3 pairs of superman pants ( for him), a can of dry shampoo with an incontinence pad stuck to it ( for me ) , 8 headless lego men, a packet of false nails , 3 cans of diet coke, 2 phones , 1 laptop, a partridge in a pair tree and 3 packets of amitriptrline. I would knock my tablet back and he would say ” that to help mummy head stay all great . Huzzah!”.
And he was right – my medication does keep me staying great or greatish. Taking medication is now part of who I am. Alongside wearing pink shiny nails and hoop earrings you could put your whole hand through, I take antidepressants. Alongside being a civil servant, I take antidepressants. Alongside loving gin and laughing and loving , I take antidepressants. Joe knows Mummy is all these things. And to me , that’s important.
Being ill after having Joe is truly the single most horrific thing that has ever happened me. Its left me determined to help other mums, utterly firm on my thoughts that for me , I wont ever have another child, and a clear view that just like daddy told him about when he broke his arm , that I will tell him about when I had a poorly head.
People say , how did you tell him ? Aren’t you worried he will think it was his fault and I’m actually not. I told Joe last night I was thinking of writing this blog and he said , can I write something in it mummy? I want to tell the mummies they will get better and I don’t mind knowing because I know it wasn’t my fault . I said of course you can so here you go :
“Hello mummies with the poorly heads. It oky to tell your child you had a poorly head as tell them its not their fault and the mummies always get better and it will all be ok”.
We have all , as a family, visited the psychiatric mother and baby unit Joe and I lived in after he was born. Joe saw the bedroom we lived in , he climbed into the cot he slept in and laughed saying I must have been tiny mummy. That was the room that I sat in when I was admitted, having woken up in the night before, convinced I was buried alive in a coffin and full of thoughts that the only way out of thee feelings was go not be alive anymore. When I was admitted, I was in the most terrible state – I couldn’t remember how to get dressed, I hadn’t done a wee for days and I was convinced I could smell burning. I was in a total state of panic and was convinced something horrific was going to happen at any moment. I was welcomed into the unit by the kind nurses who sat with the on the bed while John sat next to me with Joe in a car seat . They gently explained this would be my room for as long as it would take for me to start my recovery and they pointed to the cot in the corner where Joe would sleep.
I unravelled at this point. I screamed no no no over and over. At home , John was in the bedroom with me and Joe as I couldn’t be on my own with him but I realised now I was here , John wouldn’t be. My biggest fear had come true – I had to be on my own with my own son and this terrified me to my core. I had an enormous panic attack and felt like I was glued to the bed. Everyone could see how gripped by the illness I was but that I also needed to near Joe to bond and recover. The nurses agreed I didn’t have to close my bedroom door and one sat outside my room for he first week and cuddled me in the night when I would wake up frozen in fear.
This was also the room where I took my first big step towards recovery. I still count this as a major turning point in my illness and still now get goosebumps when I think of it. I have them now as I am typing. One week atfer being admitted and being too scared to be near my son, I walked into the room and sat on the bed and peered into Joe’s cot. No one was in the room with me and there was no nurse sitting outside. It was probably maybe only for a minute but I sat there and looked at him, on my own and I felt something I hadn’t felt since he was born – a v small lack of fear. I never knew that at 29, having worked with government ministers for the previous 11 years , having run a pub and thrown out 6 foot drunks with my 5 foot frame , that I would be experiencing the biggest and bravest point in my life – being able to sit in a room on my own with my own flesh and blood. My own baby who grew in me , who I nourished. Who was alive because of my milk. I had given him life but I had been too scared to hold or look at him. But here I was at my bravest – I was doing something that millions of people do all day but for me , it held a massive significance.
So taking Joe there to see the unit was important to us. It’s a part of his life too. He saw the room, the cot, the bouncer he would lay in. And he also saw the message board with all the cards and letters from ex patients that thanked the unit for helping them get better . I would stare at this when I was a patient, wondering how on earth these women got well and as I was convinced I would be the one who didn’t . They provided me with hope as my mind was clearing from the haze of psychosis and I dreamt of the day where my card was up there , with a photo of me and Joe , saying thank you .
And it is. That card is there now – alongside a photo of Joe and I “ Mummy , its me as a baby , look”, Joe said as he wandered through the unit. He ran up with a smile and read the card. “ Mummy ? Will the ladies in here now read this and know they wont have a poorly head forever ? Will they see the picture of me and you and see they will be happy one day as well mumma ?” . I explained they will. That our story will give them hope , like the cards had shown me.
Joe knows my illness wasnt his fault. He knows it was caused by having a baby but it wasnt because of him. Sometimes the mind does funny things – like if he feels anxious when he is in goal at football practise, or that he gets sweaty little hands of the teacher asks him to read out loud in class. He doesn’t want to feel like that but he does and its no ones fault. Like when you get a headache or a tummy ache , it just happens. He asked me what I felt like when I had a poorly head and I said well mummy did a few things which might made your eyes go all big and you might even laugh because it sounds a bit strange. “ What did you do mummy?” he asked . I said , well I clutched your fathers ankles one day and refused to let him leave the house. Another time , I ran after him in the street naked . Cue hysterical laughing and shouts of , you went outside with your butt out ? Your actual butt on the street . This then descended into questions about what if I needed a poo and him talking about when he did a shit in the garden and wiped his bum with my Tesco receipt and how his jet stream of wee hit the window. We must be lovely neighbours …..
I did also tell him that my poorly head made me feel like I was scared of him. And the reason I was so sad when I was ill was that he was such a super gorgeous squidgy little baby and I didnt want to be scared. My brain had got all jumbled up and was making me say and think and do things that weren’t real and this was one of those things. The chemicals in my brain went a bit funny and Dr Mark looked after me and I took some special pills to make them okay again. And Mummy will take a v small dose of those special pills most probably forever just to make sure that her brain doesn’t have a jelly like wobble again in the future.
I am at a stage now , 8 years on , where talking about what happened to me is becoming a chapter I am almost at the end of. I will always be a mother of one and I feel like the decision John and I took to tell Joe , has been the right one. He knows about it , he has digested it , he understands it as well as an 8 year old can. Its made him empathetic, he feels a kindness towards new mums we see in the park and he knows that mummy spends some of her free time , when I’m not with him, helping the mummies with poorly heads now. The illness had a powerful impact on our family in so many ways and for us , to not tell him about that , wouldn’t have been right.
Its your story. Its your family. But always remember, your illness isnt anyone’s fault. It happened and it’s an utter ballache and I will bang the recovery drum for as long as I live to help women get better. And I am so grateful to have my little superhero boy my side to bang the drum with me .
Here is the fella telling you that you will get better https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=740135519474226&id=372428426244939 xx
The first ever UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week took place during 1-7th May 2017 and was organised by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership.
The Partnership is a small group of individuals including those with lived experience , from charities and health care professionals , who came together in 2014 with the dream of creating an awareness campaign for maternal mental health. Three years later, falling within the week that World Maternal Mental Health Day ran, we launched the campaign.
The Falling Through The Gaps report in 2015 advised that more than one in ten women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year of having a baby and if left untreated, this can have a significant emotional impact on the women suffering and their families.
With this in mind, the week focused on how and where people can seek help in the perinatal period. Its vital for women, their family and friends and health care professionals to know where they can access support for perinatal mental health conditions, so to encourage this, PMHP ran themed days on its social media channels. Analysis shows that during the week, the PMHP facebook page alone achieved a reach of 116,000 and engaged with 7,000 people.
Across the UK, charities, organisations and individuals ran exciting and interesting events to celebrate the week and provide information for mothers and their families, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance encouraged its members to support these and the hashtag for the duration was #maternalmhmatters
01st May – #Map my support
Across our social media channels, PMHP provided information about the different maternal mental illnesses that can affect women and shared details of charities, organizations and support groups services across the whole of the UK, using the hashtag #mapmysupport . There were 80 tweets directly referring to the hashtag, outlining services across the UK and 338 retweets of these.
02nd – May How to access support from health care professionals
PMHP ran two Facebook Live sessions from its Facebook page for people to watch and contribute to both live and on playback:
1 A session with Dr Stephanie DeGiorgio, a GP and member of the PMHP, on how to approach GPs for help and support
2. A session with pharmacist Dr Wendy Jones regarding the antidepressants that are safe to take while breastfeeding and with a maternal mental illness
In her session, GP Dr Stephanie discussed about how to approach healthcare professionals for help as it can be really daunting to pluck up the courage to open up to a doctor or health visitor and so discouraging when you do so and don’t get the help you need and deserve. Dr Stephanie also provided an insight into how health care professionals can support unwell mums. This took place via the PMHP Facebook Page at 11.30am on 2nd May.
You can watch the session here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=614322175425689&id=587696788088228 .
Analysis shows that Dr Stephanie’s live chat has been viewed 5,000 times with 105 shares . PHMP have received messages from mums to advise they have played the video to their GP and it has received very positive feedback.
“ This is wonderful Dr Stephanie”
“Great advice “
“You are amazing for talking about this. Smashing stigma”
“So brave to talk about personal experience. No judgement , purely support”.
“Thank you for sharing our experience , exposing intrusive thoughts is so important and so much more common than people think”
“ So good to hear these thoughts happen to lots of people”
“Thank you for being so honest Dr Stephanie. Hearing someone who has experienced it and is also a GP is so reassuring for mum”
“This is amazing . Thank you for sharing your advice and such honesty”
“Thank you so much for discussing intrusive thoughts”
“I am a health visitor and will be definitely be taking this to my team. Thank you for such a practical , honest and relevant video for mums”
“Really brilliant , thank you”
” You were calm headed and emphathetic and honest. I with you were my gp’
Alongside this session, PMHP members Smile Group compiled a blog on overcoming obstacles to seeking help. PMHP also promoted Smile’s positively received GP Checklist ( http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/ ) which mums can complete with their symptoms and pass to their health care professional if they are finding it difficult to verbalise their symptoms and Dr Stephanie referred to this during the live session.
Also supporting this session, Dr Carrie Ladd also wrote a blog to share a link to the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit with a wider audience. The Royal College of Gps, in partnership with NHS England, produced this toolkit to assist health care professionals to deliver the highest quality care to women with mental health problems in the perinatal period. As well as offering a diverse collection of resources, the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit gives details of additional learning for individual practitioners. It also provides resources for those concerned about their own mental health issues.
In the blog, Carrie she advised on the usefulness of the toolkit – “for professionals, there are many useful links to help with prescribing issues and to give advice to women to help them make an informed choice about the safest choice of medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are several Top Tip style documents about communication, red flag signs to identify more serious illness as well as links to further learning. For patients, there are links to many information leaflets, third sector organisations, online peer support groups, digital media sources of help amongst many others”.
A link to Carrie’s blog is here https://drcarrieladd.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/uk-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week/ and the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit, which is accessible to all, is here http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx .
Dr Wendy Jones is a widely recognised Pharmacist who runs the the Breastfeeding and Medication website . Her Facebook Live session provided information on safe antidepressants to take while nursing. This seems to be such an uncertain area for both mums and health care professionals , with many people, believing or being advised to stop breastfeeding in order to take anti depressants. In fact , there are a variety of safe medications and Wendy provided information on these during the session.
This took place via the PMHP Facebook page at 7pm on 2nd May. The session has been viewed 11,000 times with 247 shares and the feedback on the session is below.
You can watch the session here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=614488795409027&id=587696788088228 .
Feedback on session is below :
“Thank you for sharing your passion and knowledge Wendy”
“Than you – this is so reassuring “
“Thank you , Excellent. I work as a Health Visitor and facilitate local breastfeeding support groups . This is such valuable advice.
“ A really useful presentation”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this”
“Brilliant Wendy, you are such a reassuring inspiration, Thank you”
03rd May – World Maternal Mental Health Day
PMHP worked with Postpartum Support International and member organizations on plans for the day. We encouraged the creation of a virtual positivity pot for people to dip into (encouraging the use of the hashtag #perinatalpostivitypot) and tweeted articles, blogs, recovery stories and quotes from mums on what has helped them during their recovery.
Organisations such as Bluebell Place have a positivity board, Smile Group have a Little Book of Smiles and PNDandMe have their Little Book of Hope all containing quotes of this nature and we encouraged people to use these as inspiration.
People could join the global partners by adding a Twibbon to their Twitter profile, downloading the infographic and registering any events they
04th May – Self Care
We focused on Self Care during the day – focusing on how it’s okay to focus on yourself and how to do this.
05th May – Tips and Tools to support recovery
We looked at Tips and Tools to support recovery. To end the week on a positive note, we wanted to share some practical strategies for managing symptoms.
There was also a #PNDhour run by Rosey Adams from PNDandme during each night of the week 8pm-9pm.
Follow Rosey on Twitter @pndandme as she runs a #PNDhour every Wednesday throughout the year and its a brilliant support and information sharing portal for mums , families and health care professionals.
Rosey’s main aims of setting up the #PNDHour were :
To provide a safe space to discuss topics surrounding pre and postnatal illness.
To help connect those affected by the illness, and provide support for each other.
To increase awareness and encourage open conversations about the illness.
To discuss where improvements could be made in all areas of the support provided for those affected.
For more information see http://www.pndandme.co.uk/pndhour/
For more info on how to access twitter if you haven’t previously, download the masterclass at the end of this blog by Laura Wood http://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/beyond-peer-support-twitter-and-perinatal-mental-health/
Analysis shows there were 3,578 #pndhour tweets across five days , with the peak being during the session on World Maternal Mental Health Day , when 1,011 tweets were sent. Across the whole week, nearly 700 unique participants took part .
Throughout the week, events were held both on and offline throughout the UK to support mums and families and raise awareness of maternal mental illnesses and support services.
NCT Teeside held a week long series of events and the details can be found via this link https://www.facebook.com/events/866150676881842/?ti=as
2nd May – Walk, Wear , Push Preston Park
3rd – Bumps and Babies and feeding support
4th – Toddlers
5th – Drop in with antenatal practitioner
7th – Walk , Wear, Push , Albert Park
Raindrops To Rainbows held a whole week of events in the North East –http://www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk/events-2 that received extensive media coverage and included creative writing sessions for mums to music gigs.
1st May – Families and Friends Opening Event , which was a closed event specially for families and individuals with an interest in Maternal Mental Health
Networking Event – An event aimed at professionals , including the NHS, Local Authority, Councillors , Universities and other organisations with an interest in Maternal Mental Health.
2nd – Creative Writing Workshop with Dr Natalie Scott
3rd May Creative Art with Claire Baratt
4th May – Songwriting with Marie Marx
5th May – Closing Event and Artwork Function
The Beeches Family Fun Day was an event held by staff and former patients of the Derby Mother and Baby Unit to raise funds to further enhance the delivery of patient care on the ward , whilst celebrating the recovery of mums that have accessed the service http://www.derbyshirehealthcareft.nhs.uk/about-us/latest-news/maternal-mental-health-focus-of-derby-family-fun-day/
Southern Health Foundation Trust Health visitors ran a series of 13 free events across Hampshire during the week at children and community centres. There was also a fantastic news report on BBC South Today on the health visiting service and it’s support to mums with maternal mental illness.
Netmums ran an online ‘Drop in clinic’ for mums to message during the week for support and advice. Information can be found here https://www.netmums.com/coffeehouse/drop-clinic-984/maternal-mental-health-995/
The Women’s Resource and Development Agency provided information about maternal mental health and general wellbeing in women’s centres across Northern Ireland.
On Tuesday 2nd May they delivered and setup ‘Inspiration Points’ stocked with leaflets on issues such as post-natal depression, anxiety and other mental health problems that can arise for mums throughout the women’s centre network.
They charted their progress online using #roadtowellbeing after kicking off the day with a launch event at Falls Women’s Centre. This event included testimony from ‘Have You Seen That Girl?’ founder and Inspire’s maternal wellbeing ambassador, Lindsay Robinson who shared her story of post-natal depression and recovery, and the work she now does to support and inspire other women
The Smile Group hosted a special themed family #saturdaysocial and led a creative session where parents and children did handprints to show we are all part of a community that joins people together in times where they can feel lonely. They also hosted craft themed sessions at their group to encourage creative expression http://www.thesmilegroup.org/
The Association of Postnatal Illness ran a series of online chats during the week on their Facebook channel – https://www.facebook.com/events/661291170724487/?ti=cl
Becoming Families in Worcestershire shared recovery stories via their social media channels https://www.becomingfamilies.co.uk/
Mothers for Mothers in Bristol held a series of events including massage and paper flower bouquet sessions https://www.mothersformothers.co.uk. Mums Aid in London held an event at Brookhill Children’s Centre to inform local mums about their support services https://mums-aid.org
The Mums Wellbeing Group in Manchester ran a great series of events including an art and creative writing workshop, a cake club and a showcase.
Acacia in Birmingham launched their new website and a brand new film that profiled four mothers and their journey to recovery with support from Acacia http://www.acacia.org.uk
The Global Women’s Mental Health Seminar held a conference on 4th May http://www.mcrglobal.org/events-updates/global-womens-mental-health-seminar/
Health Improvement with Glasgow Life, Clyde Gateway and Quarriers held an event on 3rd May at Parkhead Library in Glasgow to celebrate the week. Information was available on Quarriers’ new service in Glasgow; Café Stork (a drop-in café for new and expectant parents café run by Health Improvement and Thriving Places).
Bluebell Care in Bristol held a fantastic series of events during the week http://www.bluebellcare.org/
Mon 1st – Local support awareness raising
Tues 2nd – Health & Wellbeing group for parents & babies – a time to talk about feeding, sleep & play
Tues 2nd – Antenatal Yoga for Wellbeing class
Weds 3rd – Woolly Weds – come and knit, crochet and natter, play-workers to mind little ones
Thurs 4th – Drop-in Coffee Morning – the team will be there to listen, play-workers for little ones
Fri 5th – Feel Good Friday – book for a treatment session & paint nails, play-workers for little ones
Sat 6th – Clothes Swap – an evening fundraiser for developing services in South Gloucestershire
Cocoon in London offered a week long program of activities promoting emotional wellbeing and raising awareness of perinatal mental health issues. They teaming up with a number of professionals who volunteered their time in aid of the awareness week, including gentle sleep consultant, Mindfulness instructor and baby yoga instructor! https://www.facebook.com/PNDSupportNW6/photos/a.1477512595803870.1073741830.1477435262478270/1903623106526148/?type=3
Action on Postpartum Psychosis initiated Music 4 Mums inviting everyone to ‘Sing, Play and Perform’ to raise awareness of the need for adequate maternal mental health care services in the UK. Details of the events held are here https://www.app-network.org/m4mums/music-4-mums-events/.
The Birth Trauma Trust supported the week with a range of activities http://www.birthtraumatrust.org/maternal-mental-health-week-2017/
Maternal Mental Health Western Isles held a display in the Western Isles Hospital May 1 – May 4 to coincide with this week and World Maternal Mental Health Day on 3 May. This included some stats from the survey that they undertook at the end of last year.
Aware NI put together some information on perinatal mental health to support the awareness week https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1486072521445654&id=117685461617707
Kate at Hurrah For Gin posted this lovely and honest post during the week https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1725740377441024&substory_index=0&id=726296134052125 . Closer magazine also covered this story https://closeronline.co.uk/real-life/news/mum-blogger-hurrah-gin-dark-side-parent-mental-health-anxiety-depression.
Juno PNMH Edinburgh ran a series of video blogs throughout the week on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/junopmhsedinburgh/videos/1102619323216444/
Sling Swing Lincoln asked people to support the week by changing their profile picture on social media to help raise awareness.
The Every Mum Movement launched its new website during the week https://www.facebook.com/everymummovement/posts/1789659268028678
Maternal Mental Health Scotland Change Agents shared information about services and support networks that an help you https://www.facebook.com/maternalmentalhealthscotlandchangeagents/posts/1784042411622730
Denise Welch spoke to ITV News as part of the week to help to spread awareness and get people talking about depression. More details are here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1305033456260945&id=185016708262631 and you can watch the news report here http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2017-05-03/denise-welch-urges-others-to-open-up-about-mental-health/
Sketchy Mama produced some artwork for the week https://m.facebook.com/sketchymuma/photos/a.388673807983931.1073741828.386901668161145/680442588807050/?type=3
Articles and Blogs
World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, perinatal anxiety, psychosis, PTSD and others
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: PTSD and me.
Maternal Mental Health Awareness
Maternal Health Awareness – Its okay not to be okay
Maternal Mental Health Awareness
Maternal mental health week
Maternal Mental Health
Thank you to everyone who made the campaign such a success. Thank you to the mums and families we wanted to help and we so hope the week provided you with hope that you will get better and signposted you to support . We received a message from a mum a little while ago to say the week was a key part of her coping during the early weeks of motherhood. She says she felt like there was a whole army of people pushing her forward to feeling like herself again. She wrote that she had the deepest gratitude for all the hard work and commitment of everyone who was involved in the week .
It’s this kind of message that shows WE MADE A DIFFERENCE!!!!
The second annual UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week will be taking place 30th April until 6th May 2018. If you would like further information :
Email – email@example.com
Facebook – https://m.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/
Twitter – @PMHPUK
Perinatal Mental Health Partnership Membership:
Eve Canavan – @eviecanavan
Beth Bone – @BB576
Rosey Adams – @PNDandMe
Dr Stephanie DeGiorgio – @DrSdeG
Dr Andy Mayers – @DrAndyMayers
Bluebell Care – @BluebellCare
Smile Group – @TheSMILEGroup
Raindrops to Rainbows – @R2R_pnd
Kathryn Grant – @katgrant30
Becoming a mother changes your life in so many ways. You find your boobs become a 24 hour milkshake shop, your stomach resembles ripped crepe paper and you suddenly become an expert on eating the half eaten ends of a fish finger and a tescos value fromage frais whilst catching your toddlers poo that it’s decided to do on the kitchen floor, in your hand , whilst having better negotiation skills than a UN peacekeeper when the 4 year old bites the head of the 3 years olds Barbie and the 3 yr old threatens to wee on the 4 year olds face as pay back. All taking place as you buy your husbands mother a bunch of 50 quid flowers from him to her as he barely even remembers he has a mother.
However, this week, it REALLY hit me that my life has truly changed because of the responsibility of owning a real life kid. A real life kid at school that is. Mine is 7 and I lost the plot and not in a metaphorical way when he came out of the sunroof all those years ago. The overwhelming of him being here forever hit me in the face with a vomit ridden muslin and I ended up with postpartum psychosis and had a lovely stay in a psychiatric unit to help me over the pretty catastrophic bump in the road of life.
I recovered, decided I did love my baby and wanted him to stay forever and then looked ahead and realized it was okay to also want the glorious days of going back to work again eventually and drinking diet coke at my desk whilst laughing at Dave in accounts for wearing a Xmas jumper in November. And then thought , when my sweet child goes to school, life will calm down a tad. I won’t be changing 11 nappies of chicken korma poo a day, the school will cook him a lunch instead of me so I can just give him some dairylea and crackers for dinner and I can spend my 37 hours a week at work being me , Eve, and then come home and watch my boy delightfully play while I merrily spread said crackers with cheese and have him in bed for 7pm as the poor boy will be ever so tired from his long school day.
THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
My daily life, like lots of mothers, is like a melting pile of angel delight left out too long. I adore my child – he is my reason for being and he is like my little shadow. Where I go , he goes. Even work sometimes if school is closed and childcare has a balls up. But I also love using the bit of my brain that worked before I had him and relish going into work. I just don’t think I realized how much life can feel like a food processor on the highest setting whizzing around. All the bits globbing together and there being bits stuck in a corner that need hammering down with a rolling pin.
My day looks like this usually. I do find time to drink a gin whilst doing a poo sometimes and did manage to do the washing up last week but it’s a bit whacko really…..
– After putting in a clothes wash at 1am, I find the child’s school jumper in bath wet. Wring water out and sniff it to see if it reeks of wee (child has been known to position his aim in the air to see if it hits ceiling and wee in his own face and all over jumper) and when find it doesn’t, goes to put on radiator ready for morning. Only to look and see that the front of it is covered in stamped in Spag Bol and rice pudding. After shouting fuck 87 times whilst staring at the washing machine going round and round, I perform home surgery with make up wipes and a toothbrush to get jumper to passable clean stage and hope that teacher doesn’t think my kid is being brought up by feral dogs instead of responsible parents.
– Wake up at 1.40 after feeling warm breath in face. Open eyes to find my child standing at side of bed staring at me like the exorcist and let out blood curdling scream – ” Why are you standing there ? How long have you been there ? ” .Child advises he has been there for 97 years and he needs a poo and can I scratch his bum for him. Said child has been out of nappies for 5 years and manages to shit in the day without ever telling me. I then spend 20 minutes asking child why he has woken me up repeatedly whilst searching for loo roll. Child then stops picking nose on loo to say tell me he used all the loo roll earlier to wrap his Tracy Island model up as it had been attacked by an evil marshmallow mans vomit so “it all gone mummy – my poo finished though”. It’s now 2:15 and there is a meter long poo in toilet that won’t flush and kid is poking it with his sword to break it into chunks whilst naked with poo hanging from his bum.
– I attempt to find emergency make up wipes to clean him but and remember I used them to clean school jumper and have a Blue Peter moment and think ,I will use a sock. Perfect. Explain to 7 year old that it would be good if I could wipe his bum with a sock as it’s likely to go everywhere and a meltdown of epic proportions begins as he bellows he is a big boy and hasn’t had me wipe his bum since he was 3 and why can’t he do it with his hand ? I inform him he used that said hand to spread butter on his bread at Harvester the day before in place of a knife and that shit down fingernails is looked down upon in society. Child bends over whilst I hold nose and use one of husbands expensive socks to wipe poo.
– Get back to bed and child promptly gets in my space and cuddles into daddy. I mention his bed to him and he stretches his legs out further in mine and says I miss cuddles . I get in. Or at least my foot does.
– Wake up at 6am to find husband star fished in bed and child star fished on top of me , making me unable to breathe. Turn shower on to find no hot water so wash self with what is essentially ice and stumble back to bedroom. Look in mirror to see greasy hair stuck to head like an oil slick whilst also remembering that I have the most important meeting of my entire career at 8.45. Shout fuck another 6 times whilst looking for the apocalyptic stash of dry shampoo I bought a few months ago only to find all canisters are empty.
– Get on tube at 6.45am and apply 4 false nails to cover the gaps whilst attempting to contour face. End up looking like a tiger with stripes across my cheeks and see the man opposite me looking at me like I am on day release as I search through my work bag for my lipstick – taking out the two lap tops, the work phone , my phone , the four different chargers , my heeled boots to change into outside the office, my kids football kit, a half eaten flapjack, a Batman figure, an incontinence pad,a sewing kit, 4 packets of nail glue, 2 umbrellas , a piece of tinsel, a tape measure and a partridge in a pear tree.
Get into work at 8am and check diary to see I had written “meet that person then”. How helpful is that to myself eh? I write a facewash status asking people if they has any clue who I was meeting and why. And no one has a clue . Spend majority of day opening and closing calendar and hitting refresh in attempt to work out who on earth I am meeting.
– My kid has been at school for nearly four years. What I have discovered in this time and particularly now it’s Christmas , is that , to the school, my husband is a figment of my imagination. I appear to be the point of all contact at all times and find myself sitting in work writing a 4 page submission for a very senior or person to read , whilst answering my 10,000 emails only for my phone to buzz 5 times in the space of one minute. And then it rings when I’m in a meeting about data security.
After mumbling apologies and thinking it must be the neighbors to say I left my hair straighteners plugged in and the house is on fire or the awful news that a family member has died, I leap out of meeting and call the number back. And then read the text messages …
” A jumper has been found on the ground of the infants playground. Please inform the office if it’s yours”
” Wednesday is dress up as a piece of nature day. Please consider making your child’s outfit to support creativity. Donation of £2 and grateful for as many parents as possible to attend at 2pm to help set up”.
What the ?? My kid is in juniors, I could give a flying jockstrap if a jumper is in the infants playground as does my boss whom I have just walked out on. Phone then proceeds to buzz another 8 times.
“Dear parents , your child’s dinner money owed up to end of this week is £46.85. Please contact the school office”
“Dear parents , you owe £7 for after school club. Please pay the office”
” Dear parents, all payments owed to school must be paid by Friday”
” Dear parents , it’s Christmas jumper day tomorrow . £1 donation”
” Dear parents , school Christmas fayre in main hall after school . Food and drinks to buy”
“Dear parents, a visa/debit card was found in the sports hall. Please let reception know if it’s yours”
” Dear parents , an oyster card was found in the hall. Please collect from the office if it is yours”
“Dear parents , if your child is ill on last day of school, you will need to supply medical evidence or you will be fined”.
– After digesting all them , I phone husband to moan that my phone is so hot with all this activity , I think it’s going to go on fire and ask if he has responded to any of them . Only for him to say ” I don’t get any texts from the school”. He doesn’t get any texts. He collected our kid from after school club and takes him to school every ,lining but I am the one told to pay all the money. DO I HAVE A CUSTOMER SERVICES SIGN SWINGING ABOVE MY HEAD ?????
– When I finish work, I zig zag across London to collect my kid from school, going to the late room first as that’s where my poor kid always is, drawing a pile of cash from the cash point on the way to pay my educational debts , only to get to the school office and be told I was sent another text to say all the money actually needed to be paid by this morning and they can’t take it now. I feel like collapsing in a heap whilst waving my 8767 texts in front of the receptionist in a somewhat manic fashion as I don’t seem to have this highly informative text. I attempt to make a point by charging out of the building only to accidently head butt the door and then having to re-enter the building as my kid now apparently needs a poo.
– I then have to take him to football whilst he eats his bacon sandwich on the bus and knocks 97 year old Mavis in her head with his football boot as the bus swings around the corner. I spend my 2 hours at football on my laptop while counting the goals my kid scores before getting back on the bus to go to the shopping centre to buy the bloody Xmas jumper for him to wear at school tomorrow. Poor child is trekking through a million Xmas shoppers in football studs while I seriously contemplate sewing baubles from the Xmas tree to his jumper and sellotaping tinsel around his head as it becomes apparent that even though it’s Christmas , no shops do Xmas jumpers except John Lewis . And I refuse to buy a jumper that is the same price as our mortgage. Eventually find one in H and M using detective skills and nabbed it from someone else when she put it down to remove her kids coat to try it in him. I snuck up and grabbed it and ran to the checkout like I was on the run from a bounty hunter.
– I then get home and cook dinner, at 8pm (while all the other kids in the land are in bed) in my coat with leg weights strapped on as I have no time to get thin. Potato waffles cook in the toaster on number 5, pushed down three times, ready cooked chicken tikka means I am almost serving restaurant food and baked beans count as vegetables with school dinners so I adhere to that principle at home. The dairylea and crackers scenario that had previously been in my head is now in the bin with any sense of self I had as child is human dustbin and eats approx every 20 seconds. I think the words “I’m humbrie” are etched in my ears forever.
– I stop to have a poo break at 9.15 and kid decides I can’t possibly do this in peace and he must come in and sit on floor to ask if my poo is hard or soft and if there is sweet corn in it. I then get rendition of “My daddy was a bank robber” whilst he asks about Russian politics , tells me about the blitz and presents me with a precious picture of someone with their lungs hanging outside of their body. Spend 2 minutes wondering if this is normal or this is the first sign of my child turning into a psychopath and ask my sister who has had 900 children. She says her son spent a year in an assassin stage and the attention to detail he has shown is quite remarkable. I decide he is normal and then beg and plead for him to go to bed.
Husband has loo break the length of an England match and was undisturbed for the entirety. I dream about throwing things at him.
– At 9.30 child goes to bed and I sit outside bedroom for 40 mins in the dark and do an online shop. Child asks me for bran flakes three times, needs a wee, requires water and then announces he needs to make a habitat for a snow leopard to bring to school tomorrow. I contemplate banging head into a plunger and check the helpful school texts and find I haven’t been told of said habitat homework but the piece of crumpled up paper in his book bag shows me it is indeed true.
– At 10.15, I tell husband to look up snow leopard habitats whilst wondering if an empty cereal packet can transform into one whilst swearing several hundred times. Husband cuts out a shape similar to a mountain and then realize I will need to wake my non sleeping child up at 5.45 to stick some fake snow on the top of the mountain.
Child wakes up at 5am announcing it to the entire neighborhood. I tell him he needs to find some cotton wool for snow and wander into living room to find 25 sanitary towels being ripped up by him and stuck on to the empty bran flakes packet. Have stand off with child advising that I don’t know if mummy’s period nappies are the ideal to be stuck on something that will be on display in school hall. Child outsmarts me and says , they aren’t used though are they mummy and I have to admit to defeat and let the gluing continue.
– Find myself in garden in bra and pajamas to find tiny stones to stick on the bloody habitat to make it realistic. Because I bet all snow leopards sleep in a sanitary towel covered in a bran flakes packet.
– Off I toddle to the shower and I look in the mirror and see my hair is two different colours – my roots are now halfway down my head and I resemble a Jeremy Kyle guest. I just need to lose a few more teeth and I would be perfect for it.
– Get on tube at 6.45 and begin re sticking the nails that fell yesterday an hour after putting them on ……….
I wouldn’t have it any other way I don’t think. Would I? Would you? It’s nuts and wild and I feel like I have been dragged through a blender most hours , minutes and seconds of the day but it’s ok as he will be 18 before I know it and hate me and refuse to acknowledge my existence. I guess it’s the fact that there isn’t an off switch. Ever – even when I am on my period , I have an audience when I am on the loo, explaining to him that the sperm didn’t break through the womb so I have my period again this month. He then spends an hour laughing hysterically whilst announcing he is hungry 27 times . And then he saves some of his dinner to give to the homeless man in the subway and my heart melts as throughout the wildness of it all, I am raising a beautiful child.
It’s constant this mothering lark innit?
It’s been quite the few years for perinatal mental illness. From the EastEnders postpartum psychosis Christmas storyline , the first ever UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May to the #mumstakeover event happening late November on the BBC, maternal mental health are the words on everyone’s lips. Which is wonderful.
But for us mums who have suffered or are suffering, it’s on our minds all the time. Being pregnant or having a baby and feeling like a shadow of your former self, has affected women for thousands of years . It’s with us all the time and it’s with us until we recover.
I had postpartum psychosis and anxiety and all I wanted to do was recover. I had my son and fell into a dark deep pit of hell. A doom watch came over me and convinced me my baby was a mistake, I hallucinated about being buried alive and I became so ill, I could see absolutely no way out from the hell I was in. It took almost 2 months to get me the correct treatment and when I emerged from my illness, I knew I needed to use my experience to help others. And this starts with empowering mums with knowledge about their symptoms and how to get help.
Whether you are at the start of what you believe to be or have been diagnosed as having a perinatal mental illness, mid-way through, where the horror of the start may be being chipped away by a sprinkling of golden good days here and there, or nearing the end where the fog has almost cleared, you can see the brightness of life before you with your baby and a smile allows itself to come through and the relief is feeling you want to bottle up forever, you need help and support.
And there is help and support available, provided by people who know what they are talking about and who know what may help you. Everyone’s experiences are different – whether its depression , anxiety, psychosis, OCD, feeling full of sadness , feeling full of fear , feeling alone – but what makes help great is it can be adjusted to help you in your situation.
It may feel like it but you aren’t alone. And it may not feel like it, but you will get better. The whizzy medical bods who like looking at graphs and number porn say that ‘1 in 7 women in the UK will be affected by problems with their mood during pregnancy and afterwards’. All these feelings tend to be termed under the Postnatal Depression in the media etc. but they shouldn’t be – not all the feelings are related to depression. So, the medical bods put these feelings under one banner and call it the perinatal period.
I am not a doctor. I have no letters after my name that signifies I’m a medical brainbox and I can’t diagnose you. I am a mum who has recovered and thought my only way away from my feelings of utter despair was to not be here anymore. But I am. I’m here and I am well and you will be too.
So I may not have a medicalology but what I can do is point you in the direction of good, accredited, proper, real, and decent, not made on the Christmas market type sources of support that can help you.
So, ready? Have a look below and we can go through symptoms and tell you where you can get help. I promise you are going to be ok.
I feel like a sack of potatoes have been thrown at me and I can’t get up. Does it have to be a big sack of potatoes or can it be just a little one? What do I do?
Whether your symptoms are classed as mild, moderate or severe, if they are making you feel bad then it’s bad and you need help. From one end of the spectrum, you don’t need to be psychotic to deserve help. I see lots of women say ‘but I didn’t think I was ill enough’. You’re ill enough if it’s affecting your life. Whether it’s made you feel teary at the exhaustion of being woken up 27 times a night or hallucinate that your baby is God, (or like me, make you take your clothes off and run into the road while clinging to your hubbys ankles), you are woman and you need to roar.
Roar that you need and deserve help. And if you feel you cant, hopefully some of the things in this post will help you take that brave first step.
Perinatal mental health support in medical terms is a bit of a postcode lottery. In one place you might have an amazing dedicated team who fall asleep with the NICE guidelines on mental illness after a baby on their pillow and have a Mary Poppins handbag of amazing treatments to help you. In another place, you might find yourself in front of GP who doesn’t look at you when you pluck up the courage to go and see them and thinks Postnatal Depression is a modern day concoction of middle class mummies who want to have it all but can’t. And then you may find an online doctor who has bought their degree via the University of Con-ville , will only give you treatment options if you buy their book and who suggest a dab of apple cider vinegar on your temples will ease the anxiety away. Avoid these people, stick with malt vinegar and only use it to make your chips taste nice.
Someone once messaged me to say the reason I got ill was because I ate bread. I was unaware eating a product made out of flour, yeast and water and baked in the oven could make me hallucinate , run down the road with no clothes on and fill the garden with juice extractors. Because it’s not true. And I follow a low carb diet, so I seriously doubt a multi seeded sandwich roll resulted in me ending up in a psychiatric unit.
So please continue to eat your cheese sandwiches – you have had a baby and need energy.
For details on mental health in pregnancy and after birth and the symptoms and signs of perinatal mental health problems, please have a look at the links I post. These are proper decent medical pages and will give you good info.
For a good overview of Perinatal Mental Illness, the NHS website below is good and isn’t overwhelming. Maybe bookmark it on your phone: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/mental-health-problems-pregnant.aspx
The Baby Blues
Ok. So , you come home from hospital and alongside having a sore fandango, wearing a lilo in your pants to soak up your postpartum bleeding and being unable to do a poo for fear of your stitches coming apart, you also feel a little bit sad, weepy and very very tired. Doctors tend to call this initial feeling the Baby Blues.
The Association Of Postnatal Illness say that ‘after the birth of a baby about half of all mothers suffer a period of mild depression called the blues’ and Babycentre say 8 out of 10! In normal terms – this means most mums then. And most mums I know have experienced teariness, exhaustion, and feelings of being overwhelmed, but these feelings pass very quickly and usually need no medical support.
Symptoms of the Blues
– Emotional and upset when they have the blues and they cry for no particular reason.
– Tired and lethargic
– Anxious and Tense
– Difficulty sleeping
Why do I feel like this?
Apparently its bloody hormones. GRR to them. Your body has just produced a baby and it all goes a bit haywire and your hormones start arguing with each other and have a minor falling out. Your boobs are filling with milk and your lovely home is now filled with a crying baby and cards are arriving and you can’t wee without it burning and it’s all just tooooo much.
But….this particular falling out doesn’t last and your hormones sign a peace agreement. The medical wonders say if you have the blues, these feelings may last for a few hours or, at most, for a few days and then they disappear and don’t need to be worried about. If they last longer than this though, seek medical help as it could mean something more serious is happening.
Antenatal/Prenatal Depression and Anxiety
As the super helpful NCT website says, antenatal depression can rear its ugly head while you are with child. Said baby is still in womb, giving you piles. You could have just found out you are pregnant and instead of feeling like those mums on Facebook who post a pic of their wee stained stick with the words ‘2 weeks pregnant’ while jumping up and down for joy with flowers round their head , you think jeepers, this does not make me feel spritely at all.
Or you could sail through said pregnancy, get to 7 month and suddenly get walloped in the head by the depression dodge ball which you haven’t dodged at all. It’s knocked you down and you find it hard and almost impossible to get-up.
This is a real illness. Don’t feel shame because being pregnant is tinged with sadness – antenatal depression and anxiety are becoming recognized and your GP can help.
Birth Trauma and PTSD
Giving birth can be traumatic but our antenatal classes con us into thinking if we master how to give birth on a bed made out of tofu and meditate ourselves into an orgasmic state, then we will simply feel like we are giving birth to a raindrop, hum the pain away and spend the next 20 years talking about how you could give birth every day. Which is beautiful.
But for some, birth isn’t that straightforward and can be a terrifying, anxiety inducing experience which leaves a big emotional mark on the mum. The Birth Trauma Association say that ‘when we talk of birth trauma, we mean Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs after childbirth. We also include those women who may not meet the clinical criteria for PTSD but who have some of the symptoms of the disorder’.
The BTA outline characteristic features of PTSD as including:
-An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).
-A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
-The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
-Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
-Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma, will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on their guard all the time).
Birth Trauma / PTSD is very real. Giving birth isn’t a bed of roses and can be an upsetting and difficult experience and you shouldn’t feel any shame if you are experiencing it. It can put women off having more much wanted children and that’s a horrible feeling to experience.
The BTA have a really helpful link on how and why you should access support here http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/help.htm
For more information see http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/default.asp
Sometimes people call this Maternal OCD. You don’t hear much about this but you should – it’s not as rare as people think and can be distressing. The RCpsych page has piles of very good info so please take a look but as a quick view, RCpsych say the main symptoms are as follows:
- INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS. I have put this in big old letters as these thoughts plague LOADS OF MUMS BUT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THEM. These are basically thoughts or images that keep coming into your mind. These are sometimes called obsessions by docs. They can be very upsetting and you can visualize things you don’t want to see. These are more common than people realize and when I spoke of mine, I found others had them also. Remember, however distressing the thoughts or visions, please don’t hold back from telling medical professionals about them. To treat you properly, they need to know your thoughts and feelings. And I guarantee, you won’t be the first to talk about these kind of symptoms to them.
So – let’s talk about intrusive thoughts. This may be triggering, so if you need to stop reading, stop. This blog is for info to help you but if you feel like you can’t read anymore, then put your phone down and stop reading. You can always come back to this when you feel ready.
Ever had that feeling, as you are stood waiting for the 17.58 to Brighton, eating a Mars bar and reading about how to contour your cheeks like Kim Kardashian that you want to jump in front of a train as it zooms past? Yep? And you think, that’s a bit weird, of course I won’t jump in front of the train, and you finish said mars bar and the thought leaves your brain in a second.
When I was younger, I had thoughts of grabbing scissors and hacking my hair off. If I HAD DONE, I WOULD HAVE CRIED FOR 27 YEARS, but I found it hard to shake the feelings. I once chucked the scissors up in the air to put them on top of the cupboard but they just fell down on my head and then I got my husband to put them away as I was convinced if I had them, I would perform a bob on myself reminiscent of a 3 year old cutting out shapes – one side short, the other down to my knees and a fringe that is half way up my head performing the conga.
Well, imagine having these thoughts all the time. About your baby. ARGH. Scary isn’t it?
When you are pregnant, people throw advice at you. Your mum says she fed you on a concoction of evaporated milk and strained prunes when you announce you will be breastfeeding, your auntie says she put your cousin, in her pram, down the bottom of the garden with a fly net over her so she didn’t eat them as she screamed and the random lady in Costa tells you that you shouldn’t be eating a caramel shortbread if you want to have a boy. No one tells you however, that when you give birth, it is possible that your mind can fill with terrifying thoughts that will cover you like a black cloak and refuse to go.
I know of one woman who developed a deep fear of batteries being near her baby. She could not stop the thoughts of them exploding near her baby’s face and so she went around the house and took the batteries out of everything. Her mind was filled with horrible thoughts of her baby’s face being burned by batteries and this impacted on her life in so many ways – she didn’t accept toys from well-wishers that were battery operated, the remote controls were rendered useless and clocks stood at a standstill around the house. Her husband told her it was complete and utter madness to march around the house opening up radios and emptying batteries into the outside bin and her mother in law told everyone her grandsons mother wasn’t right in the head. How nice.
Some mums have visions of hurting their baby and refuse to pick up knives or go in the kitchen. They visualise dropping the baby on its head so avoid holding their baby.
The one that NO ONE DARES TO MENTION are the thoughts of a sexual nature. Mums I have supported or spoken to who have had these thoughts are deeply deeply distressed by them and absolutely won’t tell a health care professional about them – with the fear of their baby being removed from them and them being labelled a paedophile and put on the sex offenders register. They have told me that the thoughts just pop into their brain like a poison that won’t go away and totally grips them. They say they would sit in fear, unable to move with thoughts of “what if I actually do what is seeping through my brain? Am I actually capable of this? The fact that these awful awful thoughts and images won’t go is terrifying and disgusting me” and it makes them want to avoid their baby. They say they think , this is my baby, I love them and I want to protect them from any harm and I am thinking these thoughts , these thoughts of harming them in the worst possible way myself ? Does this mean I am going to do it? Should I even be here as their mummy? Should I go and take them out of the way of my harmful thoughts?
One mum told me she would have flashes of thoughts throughout the day, so much so, that she didn’t want to pick her baby up or change its nappy. She would say, why can’t I just be a normal mum? They make me think that I am evil and disgusting
These are deeply deeply distressing thoughts but I need to say this very clearly:
Thoughts of harming your baby do not mean in any way that you want to do this or will do. Quite the opposite in fact.
The charity Maternal OCD (who are absolutely utterly BRILLIANT) says ‘obsessions can be focused on anything from germs to symmetry. When OCD presents itself during motherhood, the responsibilities for the life and well-being of a helpless infant may be experienced as a chronic stress’ and lists some symptons as :
– Fear of contamination to the mother, child or anyone in contact with the child e.g. perceived risk of HIV, food poisoning
– intrusive thoughts of stabbing/hurting /dropping /touching the newborn baby
– Doubts that harm could come to child e.g. bottle steriliser not working
– Perfectionism e.g. everything around the house has to be a certain way
2) Anxiety – usually as a result of the thoughts. Then, thoughts or actions you keep repeating to try to reduce your anxiety. These are called compulsions.
The charity Maternal OCD says that ‘to try and eradicate the anxiety attached to the obsessions, mothers with OCD will act out rituals to ensure their child is safe and no harm will come to them. In fact, this makes the OCD worsen. Although the anxiety attached to the obsession reduces short-term it returns stronger and stronger. This means that potentially the mother is acting out rituals for a significant amount of her day’.
They list some examples of these below:
– Hyper vigilance when meeting new people or going to public toilets, this will include avoidance of touching other people, planning a day out around toilet breaks and using excessive wet wipes and hand sanitisers
– Hiding anything sharp around the house
– Constantly checking the gas is turned off, the petrol pump is working correctly
– Waking earlier than necessary and going to bed later than necessary to ensure the house is ‘just so’
– Constant reassurance seeking from friends, family members and maybe health professionals that the child is unharmed.
If you experience any of the symptoms, please tell your doctor. There is a great article at http://bjgp.org/content/67/661/376tes which informs health care professionals on how to normalise intrusive thoughts for concerned parents. It states:
- Intrusive thoughts or images of causing harm to one’s infant are common in the general population.
- Experiencing the intrusive thoughts makes them no more likely to harm their infant intentionally than any other parent is to harm their own infant intentionally.
- There is no need to avoid triggers or situations that give rise to the intrusive thoughts or images. Avoiding them actually tends to increase the frequency of the thoughts and/or images
It also advises that “Intrusive thoughts of harming one’s baby are common among clinical and non-clinical samples alike. However, they may become more distressing and harder to cope with in mothers who are suffering from mental health problems. Such thoughts can be elicited through careful and sensitive questioning (especially emphasising to parents that these are common and do not mean that they will act on them).
Once parents are able to acknowledge and talk about these thoughts and appreciate that experiencing them is very common, they often diminish in significance and frequency. Where they persist, treatment for intrusive thoughts is available using standard cognitive behavioural techniques.”
So please take this as reassurance that it’s okay to open up to your doctor about your feelings.
And this is what you need to remember. Having these thoughts does not mean you will act on them. There are lots of treatments, from CBT to medications to support you through to recovery and help to minimise the thoughts. Maternal OCD have a whole page dedicated to treatment options and emphasizes how these symptoms are very treatable – http://maternalocd.org/about-perinatal-ocd/ .
Maternal OCD also have a great page on how to access help if you have Perinatal OCD and details both professional and peer support – please take a look http://maternalocd.org/finding-help/ .
You aren’t alone with these thoughts and there is help to get you through what is a very distressing time.
Some extra info pages on Perinatal OCD are below.
Postnatal Depression and Anxiety
Everyone knows the term Postnatal Depression or PND as its more commonly referred to but even though the term is known about, mums (and dads) feel a real sense of shame when admitting they think they are suffering. You don’t need to feel shame – mother/fatherhood is no picnic in those early days.
As a mum ,you may have just pushed a melon sized person out of your nether regions or had major surgery to evict them from your tummy, you can’t wee for fear of bursting your stitches , you can’t sit down because your stitches appear to have been too thoroughly done by what appears to be the local seamstress, if you have had a c section, it feel like you are going to break in half at any point, a river of blood is gushing out of you for 6 weeks, your boobs look like they have won the golden ticket to the playboy mansion , great auntie Vera wants to come and stay and help out for the first 3 weeks which is worse than the devil coming over to play with fire in the garden and your baby appears to have laughed in the face of evolution and doesn’t ever sleep. People say oh it’s the best thing ever isn’t it and you’re standing there with sick down your top and someone else’s poo under your fingernails and you think what the dickens , I feel awful. I feel like crying. FOREVER.
Symptoms and feelings like those listed below may go quickly like the baby blues, which I talked about earlier. But if they carry on, they could be leading to postnatal depression or anxiety.
What you must remember though throughout all of this is – you are a good mum, a lovely person, a god damn warrior. Social Services won’t swoop your baby away and thinking distressing things doesn’t mean you will act on them. You are going through a hard time and you can’t just snap out of it. At the moment you are in a hole but you will get out of it.
You aren’t awful. Don’t feel ashamed. You are a good mum.
I thought I wanted the baby to live next door and was using up three rolls of toilet paper a day because was am crying so much. Oh god, the tears. They started when my parents dropped us home from the hospital, I clad in DVT socks with legs the size of a squeezable orange carton and the realisation hit me that this baby was here forever and I was in charge of it forever. And the tears then didn’t stop for the next 7 weeks. Wahhhhh . This was a big first indicator that I wasn’t revelling in motherhood.
As the RCpsych pages say, PND or anxiety symptoms can look like these:
Unable to enjoy anything
Loss of interest in sex
Negative and guilty thoughts
You might think that you are not a good mother or that your baby doesn’t love you
You may feel guilty for feeling like this or that this is your fault -You may lose your confidence
You might think you can’t cope with things.
Anxiety can be awful had a deep fear of my baby. The thought that he was now here forever filled me with such fear, that I felt like I was in a constant panic attack.
My doctor asked me if I felt like I wanted to flush the baby down the toilet – she could have phrased it a tad better but I was just very scared of him. I couldn’t dump him like a boyfriend I suddenly stopped liking and I couldn’t sell him like a flat that I had got bored with – he was here forever now and the fear of that consumed me . But my symptoms are only one experience.
Some anxiety symptoms are below – these again are taken from the RCpsych website.
You may feel like:
Your baby is very ill
Your baby is not putting on enough weight
Your baby is crying too much and you can’t settle him/her
Your baby is too quiet and might have stopped breathing
You have a physical illness
You will never get better
You may feel like you won’t ever not feel like this -You may be so worried that you are afraid to be left alone with your baby.
When you feel anxious, you may have some of the following:
Fear that you may have a heart attack or collapse.
Action on Postpartum Psychosis says that ‘Postpartum Psychosis (PP) is a severe, but treatable, form of mental illness that occurs after having a baby. It can happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without previous experience of mental illness. There are some groups of women, women with a history of bipolar disorder for example, who are at much higher risk. PP normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. It can get worse very quickly and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to hospital’.
I was one of those women .You may have heard of this illness for the first time since the soap EastEnders featured it as a major storyline. The charity Mind worked with the BBC to get the portrayal of the illness right, as did APP and myself and another mum, Kathryn Grant, been acted as consultants to the storyline and met with the researchers and actors to discuss our experience.
It is a scary illness – lots of varying symptoms as shown below – for me, I felt very scared of ‘something’. I hallucinated that I was floating and thought the sky was able to be ripped apart. I was terrified of being in the same room as my son and had bright flashes in front of my eyes. Again though, these are my symptoms. My friend spent a day thinking she was the President of North Korea which was terrifying enough in itself.
As they are the very best source of info on PP, here is APP’s list of symptoms: There are a large variety of symptoms that women with PP can experience. Women may be:
– Excited, elated, or ‘high’. -Depressed, anxious, or confused / excessively irritable or changeable in mood.
Postpartum Psychosis includes one or more of the following:
-Strange beliefs that could not be true (delusions). -Hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling things that are not there (hallucinations). -High mood with loss of touch with reality (mania). -Severe confusion.
These are also common symptoms:
-Being more talkative, sociable, on the phone an excessive amount. -Having a very busy mind or racing thoughts. -Feeling very energetic and like ‘super-mum’ or agitated and restless. -Having trouble sleeping, or not feeling the need to sleep. -Behaving in a way that is out of character or out of control. -Feeling paranoid or suspicious of people’s motives. -Feeling that things are connected in special ways or that stories on the TV or radio have special personal meaning. -Feeling that the baby is connected to God or the Devil in some way.
Treatment for PP
PP is classed as a medical emergency and if you suspect you have it or your wife, partner, daughter, sister or friend may have it, you need to take her to a GP or hospital. Mums and little’s are often treated together in specialist psychiatric mother and baby units so to avoid the separation of mother and baby, wherever possible, by joint admission. I went into a mother and baby unit. It was fab.My bed wasn’t chained to the wall and I wasn’t made to wear a straitjacket while watching the TV. It was safe, calm, warm and purposeful and it started my recovery.
I’ve written about my experience in the unit here which I hope you will take some comfort in https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/i-need-a-bed-of-strawberry-creams-in-a-place-of-recovery-dreams/ .
Once discharged, the local specialized Perinatal Outreach and Community Psychiatric Team visited me every day at home.
Don’t be scared if you need to go into a mother and baby unit or see a perinatal team at home. They are Brillo-pads and will help you get better x
See http://www.app-network.org/ for more info.
When you are feeling in such a way as described, suicidal thoughts may come into your head. It is very important here that if you feel like you are going to hurt or harm yourself and or attempt to take your life, you need to see a doctor right that very instant. Health Care Professionals are trained to deal with crisis situations.
Its ok to call the GP urgently and say you need to see a doctor and tell them why – It’s ok to go to casualty and tell them you are having these kinds of thoughts. You aren’t wasting their time. It’s ok to call your local mental health crisis team. If you don’t know their details, google crisis team and the area you live in and a number should come up.
All these things are more than ok – they are essential. You need and deserve help. You can and will get better. You deserve to be alive. People want and need you to be alive. You are a good person and you aren’t well. I reached the depths where I thought suicide was the only way out as I couldn’t see beyond my illness but there are services, medications, support networks that can help you recover and find your happy again.
If you are feeling like death is the only way out, you need urgent help. GP, Casualty, 999. Contact them.
The NHS has a very helpful page specifically for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Take a look if you need to:
I want to get better from my perinatal mental illness – what should I do?
For all of the things listed above, it’s super important to seek help. There are lots of ways of doing this.
– Contact your midwife, doctor or health visitor and tell them you are worried that you may have a problem with your feelings during your pregnancy or after the baby is born. Perinatal means up to 12 months after your baby is born so even if your child isn’t a gurgling little baba anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t be suffering!
-Doctors are used to seeing mums with these symptoms. Most docs are fab, some, as is life, not so much so. Ask the receptionist who is nice, who has a kind ear and who won’t stare at a computer screen while you are with them. If it’s too much to say in person, write it down and pass it to the receptionist if you can.
– If you see a doctor as they are as useful as a chocolate condom, then book an appointment to see another doctor. You can see 7865 doctors if need be. You deserve to be listened to.
– If you are a friend or relative of the person who is unwell, you may have to encourage them to make the appointment and go with them as they may not be aware of, or believe that there is a problem.
Accessing help from Health Care Professionals
It’s really hard to open up to a doctor or health visitor about how you are feeling .So , if you haven’t yet told your doctor about your feelings since having your baby, this may be useful for you.
Dr Stephanie De Giorgio is a GP who suffered from PND herself. During the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, she ran an FB live session to tell people its okay to open up to their doctor, even if they have intrusive thoughts. Please take a look – it’s an incredibly useful session and Stephanie opens up about her own experience and shows you aren’t alone.
The Smile Group also have this great checklist you can complete and bring to the doctor should you not know what to say or how to say how you are feeling http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/
Medicated and Mighty – what will get me better?
There are many effective treatments for perinatal mental health problems such as medication, therapy and support from charities. The vast majority of women make a good recovery. This is an illness like any other and it is vital that you receive help if you need it, so do not be afraid to ask for it.
Medication – sometimes you won’t need this, sometimes you will.
I thank the medication gods – I took so much at one point I was a human maraca but I got better. I’m still on a low dose now – I see meds like that song ‘Tequila, it makes me happy’. There is no shame in needing meds – they can help the awful fog in your head clear so you can focus on recovery. If you broke your leg you would wear a cast. Wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t roll down the street attempting to not land in a pile of dog poo because you thought you could pull yourself together, think happy thoughts and leg would magically be unbroken.
The charity Mind have a fab page on medication here which you may find useful to read http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/medication/#.Vsbx1ErfWrU .
Breastfeeding and Medication
If you are breastfeeding but need meds, that’s ok. There are lots of medications you can take while nursing. I was on anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety meds that were compatible with feeding and if you are wondering what meds are ok, or your GP isn’t sure, then the person to contact is Wendy Jones. Wendy is lovely. And super helpful.
I am part of a group called the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership and we ran the first ever UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2017. During the week, one of the main messages we wanted to give mums and families was to empower them with information on how to access support to help their recovery from maternal mental illness.
As one of the main areas of concern from mums is if they can take antidepressants if they are breastfeeding, so we made this little video with the help of Wendy ,which gives info on what anti-depressants you can take whilst nursing. It’s very good and informative and has helped over 15,000 mums!
Also, Wendy’s webpage is below and there is a tab with her contact details. If you are feeling too anxious to talk to Wendy, she is happy for you to send an email.
Let’s talk – therapy!
You don’t have to be a millionaire to go therapy and you don’t have to lay back on a sofa while someone with a clipboard nods while you are in a puddle of tears. Therapy is amaze balls. It can get to the root of why you are feeling the way you are and then help you develop coping strategies. I had CBT and EMDR therapy – which sounds ridiculous. – I had to follow a flashing light around the room to get over my trauma but it god damn worked. There are loads of different types of therapy so if offered to you, give it a whirl.
Again, the charity Mind have a great website on therapy http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-treatments/types-of-talking-treatments/#.Vsbz20rfWrU
I wrote a blog on treatment options last year. Take a look https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/tear-up-those-anti-depressant-prescriptions-all-you-need-to-do-is-climb-into-a-magicians-hatnudge-the-rabbit-out-of-the-way-and-abracadabra-youre-cured-in-a-puff-of-pull-yourself-together-smo/
Sources of further help
Maternal OCD http://www.maternalocd.org/ : A charity set up by mothers recovered from perinatal OCD, who can provide support via email, twitter and Skype. For further details please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
OCD Action http://www.ocdaction.org.uk/ : A charity providing a dedicated OCD helpline, email support and advocacy service. Contact details: 0845 3906232; email: email@example.com
Association for Postnatal Illness http://apni.org/ The UK’s leading PND charity provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of trained volunteers who have themselves experienced PND. Helpline: 020 7386 0868.
APP http://www.app-network.org Association of Postpartum Psychosis offers support to those suffering Postpartum Psychosis and their families. APP are the specialists in this illness and for correct advice, please contact them.
Depression Alliance http://www.depressionalliance.org/ Tel: 020 7407 7584; email: firstname.lastname@example.org Information, support and understanding for people who suffer with depression, and for relatives who want to help. Self-help groups, information, and raising awareness for depression.
Cry-sis http://www.cry-sis.org.uk Helpline: 08451 228669. Provides self-help and support for families with excessively crying and sleepless and demanding babies.
Family Action https://www.family-action.org.uk/ Tel: 020 7254 6251. Support and practical help for families affected by mental illness, including ‘Newpin’ services – offering support to parents of children under-5 whose mental health is affecting their ability to provide safe parenting.
Home Start http://www.home-start.org.uk/ Tel: 0800 068 6368. Support and practical help for families with at least one child under-5. Help offered to parents finding it hard to cope for many reasons. These include PND or other mental illness, isolation, bereavement, illness of parent or child.
National Childbirth Trust http://www.nct.org.uk Helpline: 0300 330 0700. Support and information on all aspects of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. Local groups and telephone helplines.
MAMA – The “Meet A Mum Association” http://www.mama.co.uk Created to try and help thousands of mothers who feel out of their depth, depressed or a little isolated when their babies are born Helpline 0845 120 3746
The Samaritans http://www.samaritans.org/ 24-hour helpline 08457 90 90 90 (UK) or 116 123 (Ireland); Email: email@example.com. Confidential emotional support for those in distress who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including suicidal thoughts.
Mind – Mental Health Charity http://www.mind.org.uk
Sane – Mental Health Charity http://www.sane.org.uk
Rethink – Mental Health Charity https://www.rethink.org
Bipolar UK – Mental Health Charity https://www.bipolaruk.org
Tommys http://www.tommys.org Tommy’s pregnancy information service provides information and resources about mental health in pregnancy
Tommys Midwifery-led pregnancy line http://www.tommys.org/mentalhealth is available for anyone worried about their mental health in pregnancy, or that of another (0800 0147 800).
Birth Trauma Association http://http//www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ supports all women who have had a traumatic birth experience. It is estimated that, in the UK alone, this may result in 10,000 women a year developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).They offer emotional and practical support to women and also their families. They can offer email support to mums suffering, for more information please see this link http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/support.htm .
Mums Aid http://mums-aid.org Mums Aid provides inclusive and accessible psychological therapies for mothers experiencing a broad spectrum of emotional and mental health difficulties during pregnancy or postnatally.
International Help – Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/international/
Peer support can be incredible – talking to someone who has been through what you’re going through and got better can give you real hope. However, do check that if you are going to a peer support group, that they are properly safeguarded with trained staff and volunteers, who have access to clinical supervision and support for themselves.
Please don’t attend support groups being run by mums who are still unwell. It’s not safe. The groups below are a snapshot of what is available across the UK – let me know if you know of anymore.
Perinatal Mental Illness Peer Support Group if you would like to join a Facebook support group for perinatal illness, this group may be useful to you. The admin have Mental Health First Aid training and are recovered mums themselves https://www.facebook.com/groups/1732740973652517/
The Motherload If you would like to join a group on Facebook to be amongst supportive non-judgemental mums, then The Motherload could be beneficial https://www.facebook.com/groups/wearethemotherload/
Association for Postnatal Illness http://apni.org Helpline: 020 7386 0868. Provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers who have themselves experienced PND.
Cocoon Family Support http://cocoonfamilysupport.org/ The fantabulous Cocoon Family support is a London based charity. It supports those affected by postnatal depression, and mothers who are struggling to deal with difficult emotions before and after birth. They provide a safe and supportive environment where families can get together with others who may be feeling similar to themselves. They also provide a range of services to aid and support recovery. They are based in SE1, NW1, NW3 and NW6 and can be accessed by people across London and its borders.
The Smile Group http://www.thesmilegroup.org/ The SMILE Group was co-founded by Natalie Nuttall and Ruth Eglin in 2011 after they both experienced PND and felt passionate about the need for parents to benefit from sustained peer support at a local level. They run support groups each week for mums in Cheshire East.
Macclesfield – every Friday, 10am to 12pm Congleton – every Wednesday, 10am to 12pm
Raindrops to Rainbows http://www.raindropstorainbows.co.uk Run by the lovely Steph who is trained to provide support and advice, R2R provide peer support to mums to be and mums in the North East. They currently have five groups covering Teeside, County Durham and South Tyneside areas. The website has full details and there is a Facebook page.
Open House Nottingham http://openhouse-notts.org/ Open House (OH) was founded by a group fab Mums in early 2012 with the aim of supporting those who are or have been affected by any psychological and emotional condition which has developed during pregnancy or during the postnatal period. These include antenatal depression, postnatal depression, anxiety & OCD. They run drop in groups in Nottingham and details are here http://openhouse-notts.org/our-drop-in-groups/ .
Lotus Petal PND https://www.facebook.com/LotusPetalPND/ Support group run every other Monday 9.30-11am at Little Lions Children Centre in Essex. Run by Sarah, who is the nicest lady in the world, she welcomes any mum in Essex needing support. Contact details are on the Facebook page.
Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support http://www.juno.uk.com/ Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support was founded in February 2015 by a group of mums in Edinburgh who all have personal experience of perinatal mental health difficulties. They are kind, lovely women. They support mums through Weekly peer support groups across the city where we offer advice and information One-to-one befriending through our outreach program Access a subsidised counselling service out with our groups with a trained professional. They run four groups and details are here http://www.juno.uk.com/our-groups/
Bluebell Care http://www.bluebellcare.org/ Bluebell is a charity based in Bristol supporting mums, dads and families who are affected by antenatal or post-natal depression. They run regular, free groups Mums’ Comfort Zone, together with free creche provision, in South, North and Central/East Bristol. They prioritise the support we are able to provide (due to funding constraints) as follows: young parents from the Hartcliffe/Withywood/Bishopsworth area in South Bristol, parents from the Henbury/Brentry area in North Bristol and parents from St Pauls, Easton, Montpelier’ and Stokes Croft area in Central/East Bristol.
They also offer 1:1, informal, support via the Bluebell Buddy who can arrange to visit mums at home and/or in their local area for a cuppa and a chat. Dads can also access support through their Dads’ Zone group.
If you would like more information on their services please contact the lovely Ruth Jackson Telephone 07738628842 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
House of Light http://www.pndsupport.co.uk/ Offering hope and support for women affected by Postnatal, Antenatal Depression & Anxiety in Hull. Call: 0800 043 2031 or01482 580499 text: 07854 220790 email: email@example.com
Mother for Mothers http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/links.html Support Group for mums in Bristol suffering from PND. Helpline details are here http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/contact-us.html .
Homestart Bedfordshire http://www.home-startcentralbeds.org.uk/postnatal-depression-in-bedfordshire/ Home-Start Central Bedfordshire we run numerous pnd support groups throughout Central Bedfordshire, where women with similar experiences can meet and end the isolation of postnatal depression . Contact details – firstname.lastname@example.org / 01582 660061
Journeys of Hope http://www.journeysofhope.co.uk/useful-links/ Contact email@example.com
Hertforshire Postnatal Illness Support http://www.postnatalillness.co.uk/ Can provide telephone support and they run monthly support group meetings for mums with the severest forms of postnatal illness.
Acacia Family Support http://www.acacia.org.uk Provide a free wide range of support and therapies to help mums recover from the symptoms associated with pre and postnatal depression. Their services are delivered across Birmingham and they include individual befriending sessions, group work therapy, telephone support, practical support in your own home and massage therapy for parents and your baby.
Cedar House Support http://www.postnataldepression.com/ runs PND support groups in the Surrey, Sussex and South London Areas. The groups are run by trained PND Counsellors.
The Guildford Group
This group runs from 10am to midday every Wednesday, term time only starting on January 13th 2016 at Boxgrove Sure Start Children’s Centre, Boxgrove Lane, Guildford, GU1 2TD. All groups are informal, confidential and a great support for the mothers. A crèche is provided and there is parking. Please contact Liz before attending: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 07773283556.
The Balham Group
This group is at St Stephen’s Centre (next to The Weir Link Centre) Weir Road, SW12 0NU.
This group will run every Friday, term time only from 9.30 to 11.30am, a crèche is provided and there is free parking.
It is necessary to book a place for this group, please contact Liz to do so. 07773 283556, email@example.com
The Surrey Heath Group (Mytchett)
This group started on Tuesday 12th January 2016 at Mytchett Children’s Centre, Hamesmoor Road, Mytchett, GU16 6JB and runs every Tuesday term time only from 12.30 to 2.30pm. A crèche is provided and there is free parking. Please contact Liz on 07773 283556 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
PSS PND Service http://www.psspeople.com Offers 121 and group support in the Liverpool area plus Twitter & Facebook plus Professional Perinatal Training. 0151 702 5533
Kyra Women’s Project http://www.kyra.org.uk/ is based in York/Selby and offers a range of support services.
Bluebell PND Support http://www.kyra.org.uk/based in Glasgow offer support and counselling. You ca self-refer and referrals are welcome from health, social work and other professional agencies. Referrals can be made by telephoning 0141 221 3003.
PTSD Support Group – Dr Georgina Cliford runs a small therapy group for up to 4 women from Tuesday 8th March 2016 onwards in London. It will be weekly on a Tuesday afternoon (with some flexibility depending on availability, childcare issues etc.) For more info please see http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/news/news.asp?id=96
Pregnancy Sickness Support https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/offer support to mums struggling with pregnancy sickness/ Hyperemesis. They have a national support network for women suffering any degree of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy to access support and comfort at times of isolation and distress https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/supporters-network/ .
Perinatal Mental Health Partnership https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/ You can follow this for information on the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
#PNDHOUR And let’s not forget the amazing #pndhour run by the beautiful Rosey @pndandme. A weekly Twitter chat, it takes place every Wednesday between 8-9pm and a different subject relating to perinatal mental health is discussed.
Mums, currently ill or recovered, health care professionals and family members all take part to discuss experiences, share knowledge and provide hope. Join in if you can, it’s brilliant. Rosy has written a little explanation of it here http://pndandme.co.uk/pndhour-explained/.
Moment Health http://www.momenthealth.io/ has a wealth on info on maternal mental illness including an emotions tracker
The Every Mum Movement http://everymummovement.com/ contains information for mums on the illnesses, mum meet ups and how to ‘be mentally buff’.
The Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/toolkits/perinatal-mental-health-toolkit.aspx is a clinical resource for health care professionals to help them support unwell mums. However, it’s also a great resource for anyone
Perinatal Guidelines in Practise https://www.guidelinesinpractice.co.uk/mental-health/practical-implementation-tips-perinatal-mental-health-problems/453729.article Dr Stephanie, who was referenced earlier, has produced these guidelines to support healthcare professionals when diagnosing an unwell mum. This again is a useful resource for anyone.
Am I alone? Can I read other people’s experiences?
You aren’t alone. You most definitely aren’t and there are lots of stories online from people who have written about their experiences. Remember, reading things could trigger thoughts and feelings so take care of you and only read if you feel ok to. If at any point you want to stop, then do. That’s ok.
My blog is here. I talk about being ill with psychosis and anxiety, recovery, medication and EastEnders https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com
The lovely Rosey’s blog is here and it’s a fab resource on all things Perinatal http://pndandme.co.uk. Roses page also has a fab tab which lists lots of brilliant blogs from those who have suffered http://pndandme.co.uk/pndfamily-help-support/ .
You will get better, you aren’t alone. You may slide up and down the snakes and ladders of the game of recovery but you will get there.
When I was 9, I awoke with a fright with a stomach ache akin to being kicked repeatedly in the gut with a thumping in my nether regions. I wandered into my mum and dads room crying with my mum assuming I was trying to get a day off school. I woke up that morning to see blood in my pants and went down to see my mum as she smoked her fag with the dog barking its head off. She announced I was a woman now and left me some pads the size of a metre long pencil case on the bed.
When I got my period I genuinely thought I was dying. Actual blood was coming from my front bottom and would do until I hit the menopause and to ensure I didn’t destroy everything in my midst, I was now to wear a cotton wedge in potato sack knickers for the next 40 years.
Most startling however, was that what was coming out of me was red? Bright red. Like actual blood. Which was most confusing because although blood is red when it comes out of the body everywhere else, when it comes out of the area hidden by our pants – the VULVA – then its blue. Like pen ink. Or mouthwash. Or wash liquid. It’s amazing that women’s bodies are so royal that when we bleed from where we wee and birth babies from, it’s such a majestic shade.
Except it isn’t – it’s actually red. And there is loads of it. Half an egg cup full my arse. For years we have seen adverts for sanitary products on TV where we see something that looks like washing up liquid poured over pads to show how effective they are. I have watched things on You Tube that test the absorbency of sanitary towels that bang on about how they used a liquid made out of corn-starch to match the consistency of period blood – but its bloody blue. Not bloody red.
WHY ????? Blood is red. It sometimes can have a lovely brown tone to it which is great for matching your autumn / winter outfits should you need to blend in but the general medical consensus is that red is its unique identifier.
The crimson tide is however, hopefully starting to change. There is a new advert for sanitary products that will show a woman in the shower with blood coming down her thigh ( showers are so relaxing for women eh ) and most horror inducing of all, is that the sanitary towel will be shown absorbing a liquid which looks like the offensive fluid that is , cover your ears , blood.
Here are some people’s reactions to the advert. Note that someone comments blood down leg in the shower is a bit much. Lucky they don’t endure thisin reality isn’t it eh? https://youtu.be/oiQiFyTClbg
Blood is normal. We don’t see adverts for plasters with Stacey the teenager hurting her finger after being whacked with a hockey stick, with blue blood all over her arm do we? When Reg bangs his finger with a hammer, he isn’t covered in blue washing up liquid is he ? No – they are fashioned with a blood like substance to make it realistic. So why is blood more shameful when it comes out of a Vulva? Maybe it’s because we are all so scared of Vaginas and Vulvas because we can’t even say these words in public without someone shooting a glare at us and saying ‘don’t you mean your tinkle? ‘.
We live in a world where girls are brought up to think that using the correct terms for their genitals are dirty and naughty. ‘Mummy, my vulva hurts’ would be looked at in despair that translates to ‘don’t use that word ‘but if little Layla says ‘Mummy, my uppsy daisy hurts’ then she is carted off to the doctors. Tinkle, button, mini, la la, special area, cookie, girl bits, flower, foo-foo and nunu are all names given to the area in our pants which is fine and dandy but it’s the fact that the real words for it are hushed over and actually actively concealed. Much like the real colour of period blood in the public domain.
As an aside, nothing beats when I heard a woman referring to the vulva as a Cherry Bakewell. As a cake expert, I can advise that Cherry Bakewell is a tart made out of short crust pastry, jam and sprinkled with almonds. I have just checked and my vulva isn’t sprinkled with almonds, at least not today. I wonder if it should be served with a cherry on top?
When we watch medical dramas, much is done to make them as realistic as possible. As someone is wheeled into theatre having been fake crushed under a fake bus, there is ketchup coloured goo spurting out of them. The Daily Fail once wrote an entire article about the 375 gallons of fake blood used in the BBC medical drama Casualty. Do you know that there are 15 different types of fake blood used in Casualty including congealed, clotting scabbing and dried? You know, to ensure it’s realistic. For those of us blessed with the monthly menstruals, congealed and clotted blood is familiar to us but this is never shown on period adverts. Instead, thin bright blue easy pouring liquid is neatly dredged onto a sanitary towel with no clumps or drips anywhere. How I wish my period was like that instead of large spots of blood that have escaped onto my jeans.
I turn on the TV and I see guns being waved around. I walk into the kids toy department and see 987 different types of fake guns on shelves and I struggle with the fact that we don’t bat our lashes at depictions of things which cause such horror and destruction in the world but throw our tampons at the TV screen in horror if we see a mixture of vegetable oil and food colouring being used to portray a fluid that is present in all of our bodies. It’s simply not reality to show blood as blue.
My reality is bleeding a red river. My sanitary towels have at times helicoptered out of my pants, down my leg and fallen out and there is no way on earth I could skip around pound land in white hot pants and a crop top like the adverts show. When I get my period, I may as well have swallowed a bowling ball as my stomach grows to the size of a 2 yr. pregnant elephant. I adopt a wardrobe of black leggings and pants up to my elbows and lay on the sofa surrounded by raw cookie dough mix whilst feeling like I could throw a saucepan across the living room as the air I breathe is sending me into a rage. I find I have destroyed the mattress protector having leaked all over the bed even though I wore a sanitary towel the size of a window ledge in my pants and I come to the conclusion I should just stuff a pillow up myself for the next 2 weeks . There is no way I could perform the splits on the tube whilst rollerblading during a tap dance.
When I was 18, I was talking to my friend May in college about whether I should wear my leopard print bell bottoms when we went clubbing that night. As I stood up, I saw I had leaked right through my turquoise capri pants. I am aware that you may need to pick yourself off the floor with the thought that I was wearing turquoise trousers but my horror was that the white table I had been perched on had blood on it and anyone who walked behind me would either thing I had a terrible accident and needed taking to casualty or that they would be very aware that my sanitary towel had failed its one job and I was leaking everywhere. After a bit of remodelling and home surgery on my outfit, I emerged with a cardigan tied around my hips and my handbag attempting to start a new craze worn backwards.
My reality is the pad sticking to the side of my knickers so they don’t actually catch the blood, the wings not winging and instead sticking to my leg, the pad riding halfway up my back as I have dared to walk more than three paces and my constant asking of my partner to check if I have leaked. Some peoples reality on their period is that they can slice a backhand on the tennis court whilst clad in a g-string so the adverts appeal to them but the one way in which we are all joined is that our blood is red. As much as I would love it to be royal blue, being the queen that I am, our blood is red.
I sometimes look at adverts depicting women and think, why is that woman shaving her legs when they already have no hair on them? If I don’t shave my legs at least 3 times a week, I can make an intricate French plait of the regrowth. Leave it more than a few days, and a normal razor won’t cut it and the forestry commission’s industrial grade lawn mower is needed. I would buy the razor on the advert that shows it cutting through a forest on a set of legs that also has some stretch marks thrown in for good measure. As getting a razor over those blue streaks aint easy. When we see an advert for men shaving their bards off, we don’t see Fabio the muscle bound hunk shaving an already smooth chin do we? No, we see him shaving a beard off and then looking delighted with himself. Why is that woman dying her roots blond when they are already blond? Why is that woman drinking a milkshake to lose weight when she clearly already only exists on a gust of wind and a glass of air? Why aren’t women depicted in a normal way?
I read that in 201, Kotex was told it couldn’t use the word vagina in its adverts. It seems that anything that is below belly button level and above knee level is hush hush and doesn’t really exist people. Someone wrote on twitter that they didn’t agree with the advert saying we all know that sanitary products are used for, we don’t need visuals thank you very much. We all know what noses are used for – to smell- but we don’t insist people walk around with their hands over their face do we? What is wrong with showing blood as red, wee as yellow and shit as shit coloured?
Having a blue liquid poured onto the pad just adds to the idea that periods are secret and shameful when they actually a massive normal part of everyday life for women. Quite why there has to be a veil of secrecy over what they are or how they look baffles me. I remember when Steffi Graf had to run off from the Wimbledon court in the late 80s or early 90s. My dad picked up his lamb chop and said she probably on her period and bit into it. I emerged from that incident not even a jot traumatised – hearing the word period didn’t balls me up.
Its 2017 and the world is full of horror and people will say in the grand scheme of things, maybe this is something that isn’t that important. But it’s a small part of the much bigger subject that contributes to the stigma of periods. We have to remember there are places in the world where girls have no pants or sanitary towels and they feel ashamed for bleeding and there is a bigger conversation to follow on from this to be had about that and ensuring girls and women get access to sanitary products, which are deemed in the UK, as luxury items for tax purposes. I wrote this last year about said luxury items –https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/i-so-look-forward-to-that-week-long-period-every-month-when-i-get-to-wander-around-with-a-luxury-item-in-my-pants/ .
Picasso had a blue period. Women do not. There is a school of thought that Picasso based that period in his art on his girlfriend’s unoxygenated menstrual blood and if that was the case , then bravo to Picasso for using reality as a basis for his subject. But most peoples reality is that blood is red and I doubt showing this on a TV advert is going to stop the world from turning or destroy the eyes of the young staring at the TV.
Red is not always for danger.
If you fancy reading more about this, my lovely mate Alison has written a blinding post over on The Motherload which is here – https://the-motherload.co.uk/whoooaaa-bodyform-well-bloody-done/ . Take a bloody look x
Trigger warning – mention of suicide.
It’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
I never thought I’d know what it felt like to want to die. To feel like breathing and living was the hardest thing in the world. To feel so trapped in my own mind, a mind that once belonged to me, now scaring me into despair. To feel afraid of being alive for a single second longer.
But seven years ago, this feeling hit me. It consumed me. Death seemed to be the only way out of terror of my thoughts. I couldn’t see properly, I couldn’t dress myself, I couldn’t read or write. And I thought I couldn’t stay alive.
Having a baby was supposed to be the making of me. I never thought that within a few hours of becoming a mother, I would experience my first symptoms of psychosis. I had heard that women could feel sad after giving birth for a few days and a few weeks. I had heard of postnatal depression but I hadn’t heard of what was happening to me. When I looked at my baby in the cot by my bed, I didn’t feel a pang of love. Instead, I felt trapped by his presence. Within a few hours of his birth I honestly could feel my mind disintegrating and a wave of fear I had never felt before came over me like a doomwatch. My eyes started the flick back and forth and my body temperature rose. I started breathing heavily and found myself drawn to looking at the windows. Without any force from me, my mind started to try and hatch an escape plan from the hospital- how could I get out and away from the baby? And even more terrifyingly, away from my new life, away from this world. A world that 5 hours before, with my pregnancy belly , I was elated and excited to be a part of.
3 days after having my son, I started experiencing hallucinations. The fear of being trapped forever in this life consumed my every waking moment. I struggled to eat, I could barely speak, I had forgotten how to get dressed. I felt myself float from the sofa to the corner of the room and look down on myself and I was convinced the duvet cover was dancing.
As my mind realized escaping this world wouldn’t be easy, I looked to the sky for answers. If only I could get to the clouds and unzip them I thought. Then I could get to space and be free wouldn’t I? But I wouldn’t be because I would still exist. Where would I go after space? I realized there was no escape and that I was trapped, locked in a life I felt too scared to breathe in. This feeling was the most single most terrifying feeling I have ever ever ever felt.
These feelings lasted untreated for six weeks. My life was a blur with a baby. I ran out of the house naked, I clung to my husbands feet to ensure he never left me and I felt smothered by the air around me. I thought the houses on the street were moving back and forth and I was utterly tortured by fear of being near my own baby on my own. I shook with nerves. I shook with fear. This baby was here forever now and in my mind, I was going to feel like this forever.
Unless I found a way out.
I said I wanted the baby adopted. I hatched what I thought were master plans to get our life back without it. My dear sweet husband was banging on the doors of every doctor , nurse and hospital to get me help while I made endless manic lists of my thoughts whilst screaming for the pain to be taken away.
But my mind could only take so much. Six weeks of terror, hallucinations and fear culminated in a massive meltdown at 3am one night. A visit to an out of hours doctor , after being dressed by my husband ended when she asked me if I had planned my own death. Of course I hadn’t and I will tell you why – I was so confused at that point, I barely knew my own name. I thought the baby had been sent to test me, I was scared to go to the toilet, I couldn’t remember how to do a wee. I was scared of noise, of air, of breathing. I was so scared of living , that my brain could not think of anything else.
She said if I hadn’t planned my suicide, I was considered low risk and to go home. Astounded, my husband didn’t accept this. He wanted his wife back. He wanted me back for us , for our baby, for our life. Seeing me like this wasn’t just hard for him though and everyone else but mostly, it was horrific for me. I was in an absolutely desperate desperate state and he could see that. He knew how much I wanted to not feel like that for one second more.
The next morning I woke up and declared I wanted to die. That this was my last day and that I could take no more. That morning I walked into the bathroom thinking it has to end there ,with my husband banging on the door desperately trying to coax me out. That was the day I felt like I wanted to die and my pain would be over.
I wanted to close my eyes and stay asleep.
But I didn’t die that day. Two hours after being in the bathroom, I was hospitalized in a psychiatric mother and baby unit. I had screamed until my mouth bled before my admission and was convinced I could smell burning flesh as I walked to the ward. But walking through those doors gave me a wave of hope.
It was warm. The nurses were kind and calm. I was spoken to gently and with care and my baby, the baby I feared, was in the unit with me. I got a diagnosis – postpartum psychosis and I started medication. The walls slowly stopped moving, the fear slowly started to fall away. Slowly slowly, I dreamt less of being away from the world and more and more, wanted to work to stay in it.
It took a week of a nurse being on duty outside my room 24 hours a day, for me to be able to close the door and be on my room with my baby on my own without feeling utter terror. It was a tiny step but the most significant turning point in my illness. And in my recovery.
And recover I did. I never ever thought I would feel like me ever again. To be so deep in fear that you forget what life can be like is awful but it does get better. I promise. It may take time but you will be okay.
With the help of my husband, my little boy,doctors, medication, therapy, a stint in the psychiatric unit and working to recover ,I’m here . And I’m alive. And I am so thankful. Because I deserve to be here .
Be kind ,be calm, be nice to someone you know is suffering. Open your ears and arms to someone you think may be in fear. Listen to that person in you don’t know who just needs a friendly hand. And that can be anyone’s hand.
If you are experiencing feelings that are making you feel that you can’t take anymore, go to casualty. Call 999. Go to your doctor. Call a crisis team. Call the Samaritans on 116 123 and tell your thoughts. You deserve to be here. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful and you are worth it.
You are worth being alive xx
The NHS pages on suicide contain useful information and signpost to help and support. They are here. Please read them xx