It is March 2020 and although the sun is breaking through the clouds , the nights are lighter and everything feels a bit crisper, we are experiencing something our time has never seen. Coronavirus.
I had my own personal brush with this for around 2 weeks and am just emerging from the heavy chest and awful scratchy throat to the tiredness stage where I think I could fall asleep on my kitchen floor with my feet in the freezer, I am so fatigued. I am also a fully qualified primary school teacher every day now as well as working full time . ARGH. What a not hoot. Teachers – I salute you. I don’t know about you but while the rest of the country was leaping around to Joe Wicks this morning , I was sat on my sofa in my pants, eating angel delight out of a wok as we had no clean bowls.
But away from this , my work on maternal mental health continues . My husband said to me bloody hell Eve , imagine if this had happened 10 years ago after you had Joe , what would it have been like ? And it made me wonder. I had postpartum psychosis and was so scared of my baby , I couldn’t be in the same room as him. I felt like I was staring down at myself from the clouds and felt like I has made the most terrible mistake of my life that I could not rectify. I felt trapped in my life, the world and wanted out. I need help and after much exhaustive fighting, we got it , but I had to move 200 miles to get it and be admitted to a psychiatric mother and baby unit with my son. Thankfully , my husband was able to visit me every day and when I was discharged, I zoomed up and down the country for my out patient appointments and had a health visitor coming over a few times a week and a Homestart volunteer would visit me and accompany me to mother and baby groups while I recovered and gained confidence . I had a community of support and IT WAS ESSENTIAL to my Journey to Recovery.
But 10 years on , Coronavirus has forced these avenues of support to shut down temporarily , to think of new ways to reach out and help people. To help women. To help mothers . To provide them with the tools they need to help them through what may be a difficult perinatal period. Each day we must not forget there are women giving birth to a new life and with that , comes the birth of a mother and I am all to aware what a dark time this can be for some . 1 in four woman suffer from a maternal mental illness and this wont stop because of coronavirus. In fact, as much of my work with mums over the last month has shown it adds to worries and anxieties. Thoughts of germs everywhere that could make their baby poorly, thoughts of I am so lonely because I cant see my own mum for help, thoughts of I want to see my friend around the corner and tell her I don’t think I like my baby but I cant, thoughts of I want to go to the doctor and tell them I am having scary thoughts about hurting myself but they are closed.
These things are currently not able to happen like they have previously. Grandparents cant come and stay for a month and help out with your 4 year old while you are in bed with your c section aching , lactation consultants cant visit when your boobs are full and your baby isn’t latching , you cant attend the support group you found where there are other mothers who feel the same as you . Becoming a mother can be the most vulnerable time of a woman’s life and at this point, where we are now, they need help more than ever.
I am not a health care professional. Not got all the ologies for that. I am a mum who experienced postpartum psychosis and in 2014 got together with a group of survivors of maternal mental illness to found the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. We created the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week that takes place each May, and I coordinate that. We have postponed it this year as we don’t feel it appropriate as we think we need to channel all our resources into ensuring mums know how and where to access support right now, during this very uncertain time. So that is what we are doing. The awareness week WILL run this year but not in May.
I am a trained peer supporter and champion safe perinatal peer support, am a media volunteer for Action on Postpartum Psychosis and Mind, a member of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and a UK representative for Postpartum Support International. I also like shoes, false nails, false eyelashes and have a proper job in the civil service. I eat custard on croissants as well.
Why am I saying all this? Well because I’m going to list some of the perinatal mental health support systems that are usually in place to support mums and how they have adjusted their services to deliver them in alternative formats. Note that these are free to use services and while I am sure there are many more available, I thought this was a good place for resources that all can access.
But while I am here, I am also going to put every single piece of information ever known about maternal mental illness to act as a kind of easy to read directory. I have tried to include as much as I know but if you don’t see your services in here, let me know and I will place it in.
DISCLAIMER HERE – while I have insight into lots of these services and very much champion safe support, I do not know the safeguarding procedures and guidelines attached to each reference so please seek this if contacting them for yourself or others.
I will number everything in here as follows for ease:
1 – Overview of online perinatal mental health support
2 – Online Perinatal Mental Health Peer Support groups / forums
3 – Perinatal mental health charities offering their support in new ways during the isolation period
4 – Maternal Mental Health Online Courses
5 – Useful details of national mental health charities and groups
6 – Regional perinatal mental health support in their usual form
7- Support for BAME mums
8 – Other groups/apps/organisations that provide support to mums
9 – Breastfeeding Support
10 – Covid Support
11- Support Resources
12 – Suicidal thoughts / Help in a crisis
13 – Perinatal Mental Illnesses and their symptoms
1 – OVERVIEW OF ONLINE PERINATAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
As people are self-isolating (me included , hello everyone . I mixed things up this morning and walked to the kitchen before I did my morning wee for a change of scenery) , I am receiving messages from mums who are concerned about their mental health during the isolation period and organisations across the UK want to do what they can to support them.
We know that using online resources can be a great way to support mental health. We, a group of people at the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership who have experienced maternal mental illness, came together through social media and met via a peer support forum. One of our passions therefore is to promote safe peer support and we are already seeing a huge increase in online peer support groups over the last couple of weeks.
Usually, these groups provide an online space to talk about symptoms and share support which can provide great comfort and help you feel less alone. They can also provide insight into recovery and show that it is possible.
However, you need to ensure the online support you are accessing is safe and Mind Charity have a great list of things to ask before and when you join a peer support group, which are even more relevant for those online – (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/peer-support/finding-peer-support/ ) .
You might find it helpful to ask someone, such as a group moderator, these questions about the peer support they offer:
– How is the support structured?
– Can I use the support for as long as I need to, or is it limited?
– Who leads or moderates the group?
– How many people take part?
– What ground rules or guidelines will I be asked to agree to?
– What can I do if I have a question, concern or complaint?
Groups supporting unwell mums usually have peer supporters who may also have a peer supervisor themselves so that they look after their own mental health and that of their teams, as well as the mums they support. They may have a mental health first aid certificate. If they don’t have these kind of things in place, it should be made clear.
Please also be mindful of accessing open group invites via video etc from sources you haven’t received support from previously. Mums could be miles away with no knowledge of their local mental health services if they are triggered etc. Many charities and organisations are therefore only offering this kind of support therefore to mums currently in their services or if not, are ensuring they have a trained facilitator in place to offer offline support to any mums who may need it.
If you want to learn more about the role safe peer support can play in the recovery of maternal mental illness, take a look at the Facebook live below from 2019 from the lovely Juno in Edinburgh. Juno usually run face to face peer support groups but their advice is relevant for online support
To watch Junos Facebook Live, please click on the following link :
2 – Online Perinatal Mental Health Peer Support groups / forums
The Perinatal Mental Health International Online Peer Support Group that Beth Bone and I run, has been recognised and placed in the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit – a guide for GPs on how to support mums with perinatal mental illness. GPs will therefore be able to advise unwell mums about the group.
The group has a defined model of support – having a peer support supervisor, admin with MHFA, trained peer supporter and group guidelines in line with 15 other partner groups across the world.
If you would like to join, follow this link- https://www.facebook.com/groups/1732740973652517/ .
Open House Nottingham run groups in person across Nottingham and also offer pert support at the Nottingham mother baby unit and run a closed group on Facebook where posts are moderated before approval and they have crisis guidelines in place – https://www.facebook.com/groups/152185714921238/?ref=share . During this isolation period, they are trialling a way to set up virtual drop in groups while they have had to close our usual sessions. In order to access these you will need to add this “Open House” account as a friend on Facebook. The same rules are a usual Open House group apply, everything said is confidential unless they have any concerns that harm may come to you or others, in which case they may have to lift this confidentiality – https://www.facebook.com/events/494269337908947/
Sunflower Family Support Group offer peer support to these affected by perinatal mental health in Staffordshire. They have just set up an online group https\;//www.facebook.com/groups/226014221879645 . There are group rules to adhere to.
Postpartum Support International also have a private perinatal group on Facebook. There are guidelines and details about what to do in a crisis. Posts are moderated prior to posting and there four admin which includes the Executive Director of PSI, Wendy Newhouse Davis. Link is here https://www.facebook.com/groups/25960478598/
Action on 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. They also run a peer support forum as women and their partners and families may never meet another person who has had PP to talk to. There are lots of myths and misunderstandings in the general public understanding of PP, which mean it can be hard to talk to family, friends and other new mothers about the experience.
Their PPTalk online support forum has over 1000 registered users and is open to anyone that has been affected by PP. The PPTalk Community is an open forum, moderated by APP and by APP volunteers – all who have personal experience of PP. They are not health professionals or trained in counselling – they are people who have been there and can offer support from our own perspectives. They advise that they cannot offer urgent crisis support.
Netmums is the UKs largest parenting website and run an online Maternal Mental Health forum. They very helpfully and responsibly advise that their parent supporters view the content on this board, answering your queries on maternal mental health. They state that the information Netmums Parent Supporters provide is not intended to substitute professional health advice. Outside of the Parent Supporters, Netmums hasn’t checked the qualifications of users posting in the forum. The forum is here https://www.netmums.com/coffeehouse/drop-clinic-984/maternal-mental-health-995/
Channel Mum – I first spoke with Channel Mum during the very first UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. They advised how they have a dedicated Maternal Mental Health forum where they state online support group is staffed by Experts and trained Parent Helpers, who are there to listen and support. Their team however are not online 24 hours a day so if you are feeling particularly vulnerable, are considering harming yourself or are scared by the thoughts going round in your mind they urge you to get in touch with the Samaritans or in extreme situations call 999 and tell the emergency operator you’re in danger of hurting yourself. To see the forum, details are here https://www.channelmum.com/chat/c/mums-mental-health
#PNDHour – Run by my lovely friend Rosey. Follow her on Twitter via @PNDandme and join her every Wednesday at 8pm to discuss maternal mental illness. The main aims of #PNDHour are :
- 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.
With #PNDhour, Rosey hopes as we continue to connect and discuss perinatal mental illness openly, honestly and without judgement, we can help break down the stigma attached to this illness and bring together charities, groups, professionals, families and importantly the mothers affected by perinatal mental illness for peer support. Rosey has her Mental Health First Aid certification and the hour is frequented by unwell mums, charities and health care professionals.
To help provide support to a wiser audience in the isolation period, Rosey has opened up the chat on Facebook at the same time via this link https://www.facebook.com/events/s/pnd-and-me-facebook-pndhour-ch/204194430856888/
To read more about #PNDhour, take a look here http://pndandme.co.uk/what-is-pndhour/
The Letters Of Light Project enables mums in the perinatal period to receive letters from recovered mums to provide hope and support. Liv who runs the project ensures all letters are proof read prior to being sent to a mum and there is guidance and safeguarding guidelines. If you wish to receive a letter, please contact the project at firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information see http://everymummovement.com/letters-of-light-project/ .
3 – Perinatal mental health charities offering their support in new ways during the isolation period
The Association of Postnatal Illness are operating a reduced service, mainly from home via email or through the live online chat via their website. Their email is email@example.com and their website is here https://apni.org . There is information for partners and families on how to support unwell mums which ages really useful.
Action on Postpartum Psychosis are offering email and video peer support and their regional café groups will be moving online. They have also launched a book club if you would like to join via https://www.facebook.com/groups/APPBookClubGroup . They have also produced this very helpful guide about Postpartum Psychosis during the COVID period https://www.app-network.org/news/postpartum-psychosis-covid-19/ .
Cocoon Family Support are based in London and are sad to not be able to run their face to face peer support at the moment. Instead, they are inviting their mums to join them every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am via zoom . It is a safe space , led by one of the Cocoon Peer Supporters , and is a space for any expectant or new ( ish) mums in the London area struggling wit their mental wellbeing. Their website is here https://cocoonfamilysupport.org/and details of their online support in this period are here https://cocoonfamilysupport.org/online-support-calendar
MumsAid are a fantastic charity based in Greenwich who have changed how they are offering support. They are offering all their mums online session, or phone for those who prefer/don’t have internet access. They will also be providing some emergency supplies to their young mums who are struggling. Their website is here http://mums-aid.org/
They will also be soon launching their Online Journaling Group for all mums and pregnant women. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to see if space is available. They have also started a free online singing group for all mums and pregnant women called Mama Tune Online . Send an email to email@example.com to secure your place .
Bluebell Care are based in Bristol and provide a plethora of support for mums and families. All staff are currently working from home and providing their serces to mums via phone – they will be in touch with anyone who has sessions booked in with them, & their Buddies and the rest of the team will be making calls to ensure well-being and to let their mums know that they can keep on providing online & distance support going forwards.
If you would welcome some online or phone support please email them on firstname.lastname@example.org and they will do everything they can to continue to help you. Please also visit their Facebook page for regular updates: https://www.facebook.com/Bluebellsupportingfamilies/ . Their website is here https://www.bluebellcare.org/
Shine PND support work in Chichester supporting mums and families with weekly drop in sessions . They run 12 weeks courses including art therapy. These courses have been postponed but they are running zoom workshops for mums , sending out small craft packs and will shortly be starting weekly zoom peer support chats. See shine-support.org for details .
Smile Group who support mums in Cheshire are adapting their services with perinatal mental health snf clinical community and referrers . they will be in touch with current group attendees and home visit beneficiaries shortly to outline how this will work. They are also exploring the potential of offering phone/video link counselling to parents who have been receiving face to face talk therapy via Smile to try to sustain continuity of support. For more information, see http://www.thesmilegroup.org/
Acacia Family Support who run services in Birmingham are continuing their service for their current clients via phone. They are looking at alternative way to run their groupwork sessions. If you have any queries, drop the lovely team an email at email@example.com
Family Action work across the UK and have advised that they are aware that this period means the families they support need help in new and different ways. Their services stretch across the country and so their helpline Familyline will continue to be there to give support .
Mothers for Mothers offer support, advice, information and most of all a listening ear for any worries or concerns you may have. They are funded to help mothers in the Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset areas.
They have made some changes due to COVID meaning all those who previously attended face to face service and their peer support groups are receiving support via telephone . Their helpline and support call service remains unchanged with support calls taking place on weekday mornings. Their helpline number is open Monday to Friday 10am – 9pm and can be reached on 0117 919 5826. Their website is here http://www.mothersformothers.co.uk/
Parents 1st – empower parents to be emotionally well through pregnancy, birth and beyond.Peer supporters offer mothers and fathers time to talk. They can recognise signs of depression, and help prevent problems escalating in the crucial early days of transition to parenthood.
With the current restrictions in place, they have changed how their support works and are offering free one-to-one telephone support to pregnant mums and their families in Basildon, Billericay, Wickford, Thurrock and Canvey Island. Their website is here https://parents1st.org.uk/ . To contact them email Info@Parents1st.org.uk
The Daisy Foundation offer a range of classes and workshops whiz support women, families and infants throughout the perinatal period. Due to the new social distancing guidance , The Daisy Foundation has advised all Daisy Teachers that they must now move to a model of online teaching and support. Local teachers will be in touch to let their mums know how they will be supporting them at this time. If you are pregnant or have a little one under 6 months at the moment , you can join them in their new pop-up Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/daisypopup . Their website is https://thedaisyfoundation.com/
Support 2gether is a charity in Northern Ireland supporting families who live with antenatal and postnatal depression. The charity is driven by people with lived experience and provides support groups within rural communities, one to one support via home visits and telephone support. They are working to create a support buddy telephone service which they hope will go into action from w/c 30th March. I will update this blog as and when it happens. Their website is http://www.support2gether.co.uk
By Your Side – holding your hand through perinatal mental illness are a service user forum working with Coventry and Warwickshire Perinatal Mental Health Team to support families in the perinatal period . During this time, there is a support group which can be accessed from their Facebook page and they meet online twice a week – Monday 10.30 am and Wednesday 8pm. https://www.facebook.com/ByYourSidePerinatal/
Made with Music run singing for PND groups and have started a live stream of their early years class and staff use at a mother and baby unit afterwards . Information at madewithmusic.co.uk
Baby loss support organisations offering their support in new ways during the isolation period
Nova Foundation provide comforting bereavement support to parents. They provide resources for parents, along with signposting, so that no parent walks the path of babyloss alone. They run antenatal classes, including those for parents pregnant after a loss, that will in time fund trauma therapists. They will shortly be running some free online classes, namely restorative yoga for babyloss parents and antenatal classes for families pregnant after a loss. You can find their details at https://www.novafoundation.org.uk/
Petals is a Cambridge based charity that delivers a free specialist counselling to women and partners who suffer psychological distress from trauma and grief related to all the unexpected outcomes of pregnancy and birth. Petals run an established counselling service at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge and are currently piloting the same service at Queen Charlottes and St Mary’s Hospitals, London. The service is unique, providing up to 6×1 hour counselling sessions free, to women or couples who are experiencing anxiety, trauma or loss during the perinatal/neonatal period. During this period of uncertainty and anxiety due to COVID-19, Petals are determined to continue supporting bereaved parents as best they can. They state their priority is to protect the mental and physical health of their clients, counsellors and staff. With that in mind – and based on the latest medical advice – all Petals counselling sessions will be conducted using online video via Zoom, rather than in person, until further notice. This will be reviewed weekly until they can resume a normal service. Read their full statement here: petalscharity.org/covid19 . Their website is https://petalscharity.org/
Sands is the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. They operate throughout the UK, supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby, working to improve the care bereaved parents receive, and promoting research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.
They offer peer support via their online community . It is a moderated space where you can talk with other bereaved families and learn from others experiences. There are community guidelines that people must sign up tp to keep everyone safe and to ensure it remains a supportive environment . Join here at https://sands.community . Their website is here https://sands.org.uk/
Snowdrops and Rainbows Pregnancy After Loss Support is a closed facebook group run by SFH Maternity . It is advertised as a safe forum to access ongoing midwifery and peer support for those who would like to access it . You can access it via http://www.facebook.com/groups/2913544618729156/?ref=share
Aching Arms UK provide comfort bears to support the emotional and mental health needs of bereaved parents after the loss of a baby. Their website is here http://www.achingarms.co.uk and they have done a lovely Twitter post about how you can access their support. If you would like to speak to someone , you can email them on firstname.lastname@example.org and Lindsay and Erica will pick up your message.
Support for those who babies are born sick or premature
Bliss have Champion volunteers who normally visit units across the country to listen and offer support to families with babies on a unit. As they are unable to do this at this time, they are testing out 1:1 video chats through Zoom to offer parents vital support .Each session is 30 minutes long, and you can speak to a Bliss Champions whether you have a specific concern or if you just want to talk to someone in confidence.
They have sessions in April to book . Details are in this link : https://www.bliss.org.uk/parents/support/remote-volunteer-support
You can book a time by emailing email@example.com. Please let them know your name and which hospital your baby is in, and they will get back to you with the information you need for your chat. .They also offer email support via firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 – Maternal Mental Health Online Courses
NCT have been working with their course leaders to put together virtual antenatal courses to make sure parents are equipped for labour, birth and beyond. Information on this is here: https://bit.ly/3d9Ptx3 . For information on their live virtual antenatal course please see this link https://www.nct.org.uk/courses-workshops/nct-live-online-antenatal-course .
Tommy’s have a comprehensive website with a specific content area about mental wellbeing. There is information about different mental health conditions, emotional changes in pregnancy, signs and symptoms, treatment during pregnancy, managing pregnancy with an existing mental health condition and where to find help and support. There are also films and case studies about mums and families who have had different experiences of mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy. The Wellbeing Plan(is particularly good. They state that the Wellbeing plan is designed to support your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and the first year after birth. It could also help mothers and their families think through and prepare the support they may need to care for their mental health. The link for it is here – https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/mental-health-during-and-after-pregnancy/wellbeing-plan.
Netmums Helping Depression Course is aimed at mums with low mood or those who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate postnatal depression. This course is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies have been shown to be helpful for people suffering from depressed, irritable and anxious mood. Sign up here https://www.netmums.com/support/netmums-helping-with-depression-sign-up
5 – Useful details of national mental health charities and groups
Perinatal Mental Health Partnership https://www.facebook.com/PerinatalMHPartnershipUK/ . This is the group I am part of and you can follow us for information on the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
Hub of Hope is an app that can be downloaded and gives you access to a directory of services in your area. Download it for free here https://chasingthestigma.co.uk/hub-of-hope/
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: email@example.com
Mothers Uncovered – are an award winning peer led charity based in Brighton enabling mums to support each other through creativity and conversation. Find them at mothersuncovered.com
Tommy’s midwifery-led pregnancy line is available for anyone worried about mental health in pregnancy (0800 0147 800). Their very helpful website is here http://www.tommys.org .
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.
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.
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 provides inclusive and accessible psychological therapies for mothers experiencing a broad spectrum of emotional and mental health difficulties during pregnancy or postnatally.
Channel Mum is an online community for mums https://www.channelmum.com
Mumsnet – https:/mumsnet.com makes parents life easier by pooling knowledge and advice.
Netmums – https:/netmums.com offers parenting advice , chat and support.
More than a Tick Box campaign to ensure early intervention is available for all those affected by perinatal mental health. They are a great resource – www.morethanatickbox.com
Single Parent Helpline: 0808 802 0925
Young Mums Support Network – https://ymsn.co.uk
Pink Parents – pinkparents.org.uk offer a range of support services and social activities for Gay and Lesbian parents.
Tamba – the twins and multiple births association offer support for parents https://www.tamba.org.uk/support-menu
Pregnancy Sickness Support https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/ offers 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/ .
Miscarriage Association – Information and support for anyone affected by miscarriage.Website: http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/ . You can email: email@example.com or telephone: 01924 200799
Postnatal Depression Ireland http://www.pnd.ie
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
Best Beginnings – https://www.bestbeginnings.org.uk/
The Every Mum Movement http://everymummovement.com/ contains information for mums on the illnesses, mum meet ups and how to ‘be mentally buff’.
Maternal Mental Health Alliance – https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/ . The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of UK organisations with a vision to see all women across the UK get consistent, accessible and quality care and support for their mental health during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth.
Association for Postnatal Illness– http://apni.org and helpline 020 7386 0868. Provides telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers who have themselves experienced PND.
Pandas – advises parents and their networks who need support with perinatal mental illness. Their website is here pandasfoundation.org.uk and their phone line is 0808 1961 776.
Leos https://www.leosneonatal.org/ provides care and support to families who face time in the NICU.They offer peer support to mums in the delivery room, explaining what it’s like to deliver a preterm baby and what the NICU is like, caring for a family when they go home through the transition of being discharged.
International Help – Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/international/
6 – Regional perinatal mental health support in their usual form
Parents in Mind – https://www.nct.org.uk/about-us/commissioned-services/parents-mind-perinatal-mental-health-peer-support . Funded by the Department of Health, Parents in Mind trains local volunteers to support women experiencing emotional health difficulties in pregnancy and within the first two years after birth. They currently offer the service in three locations in England: Coventry and Central Warwickshire , Newham and Widnes and Runcorn
Cocoon Family Support http://cocoonfamilysupport.org/ . 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 usually 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 Teesside, 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/ .
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 Edinburgh where they 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 or 01482 580499 text: 07854 220790 email: email@example.com
Mothers 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.
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.
West Kent PND support group https://westkentmind.org.uk/what-we-offer/mums-support-group . Peer support group supporting mums in Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling
Kyra Women’s Project http://www.kyra.org.uk/ is based in York/Selby and offers a range of support services. They offer courses on self esteem and counselling.
Light Peer Support are based in Sheffield and support the emotional well-being of mums in Sheffield and beyond. They have peer support groups in Family Centres across Sheffield , Rotherham and Doncaster . https://lightsheffield.org.uk/support/
If you are in Forth Valley Scotland , check out Aberlours Perinatal Befriending service https://www.aberlour.org.uk/services/perinatalbefriending/
If you are in Guernsey, contact the Guernsey PND support network http://guernseypnd.org/ . They can be contacted via email email@example.com or you can call their confidential telephone line 01481 520657 .Their regular coffee evening’s are held at Caritas Coffee Shop, Mill Street, St Peter Port and they have given them exclusive access so it’s very private. These are an informal way to come with or without your kids for free coffee and cake and a warm welcome. They are held quarterly on the first Monday evening of each third month from 7pm.
If you are in the Isle Of Man , then take a look at this https://www.gefthemongoose.com/headland/maternalmentalhealth/ and support group details are here https://www.netmums.com/isle-of-man/local/view/support-groups/antenatal-postnatal-support/postnatal-depression-support-group-1
Merton and Wimbledon PND support groups https://www.gettingiton.org.uk/services/merton/post-natal-depression-support-group Located at: Merton Abbey Primary School, High Path, Merton, London, SW19 2JY and Patrick Doody Clinic, Pelham Road, Wimbledon, SW19 1NX and other venues. Support groups run by a health visitor, offering the opportunity to meet other mothers who are experiencing post natal depression and share ideas on how to cope with these feelings. A home visit is offered prior to attending the group and a crèche and refreshments are provided. There are 3 groups run a year and they are held in various children’s centres across Sutton and Merton. A referral is required from health professionals or the client themselves. Telephone: 020 8254 8274/8273
If you are in East Sussex, the NHS run a Perinatal support group https://www.esht.nhs.uk/leaflet/postnatal-depression-and-anxiety-support-group/
If you are in Sheerwater , Cornerhouse run a pre and postnatal support group on Mondays http://cornerhouse.cc/services/depression-support-woking-runnymede/
If you are in St Austell , Untangled run a support group for those experiencing and affected by pre or post natal depression. Contact Cara on 07917008776 or via firstname.lastname@example.org .
In Stockport, Rose Buddies Mums and Tots Arts and Crafts Group is run by Mums for Mums struggling with low mood. Sessions are free, but they do welcome a donation towards their running costs when you can. No need to book. For info see https://www.stockport.gov.uk/groups/rose-buddies-post-natal-depression-peer-support-group
Bluebell PND Counselling Service http://www.crossreach.org.uk/bluebell-pnd-service
(Provide generic counselling and a specialist perinatal depression service. Cover central belt of Scotland)
Cross Reach Perinatal Services: Lothians http://www.crossreach.org.uk/postnatal-depression-support-whole-family Provide postnatal depression counselling service in the Lothians.
Southside Counselling Service http://www.southsidecounsellingglasgow.co.uk/ Counselling service covering Glasgow and surrounding areas. Provide a counselling service for women who experience pre and post natal depression.
Home-Start Glasgow North http://www.homestartglasgownorth.org.uk
(Home-Start Glasgow North is a voluntary organisation set up to increase the confidence and independence of families with at least one child under five years old who are experiencing difficulties. They are located next to Maryhill Community Centre)
Happy Mums Foundation – offer maternal mental health support in Carlisle nd Cumbria https://www.happymums.org.uk/
Birth and Beyond http://birthandbeyond.org.uk Provide a mentoring and counselling service for parents in Edinburgh
Dudley Mind – A new space for women with pre- or post-natal anxiety and Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month, 11:00am -1:00pm, at Food for Thought, Victoria Street, Stourbridge DY8 1SP.Please contact Tim at the Dudley Mind Head office on 01384 442938 or by email at email@example.com. http://dudleymind.org.uk/peer-support-groups/the-haven-mums-group/
If you are in Ireland , Cuidiu Parent to Parent supporters offer a listening ear to Mums who may be feeling low about being a parent or who are depressed. They have two ‘Parent Support’ coffee mornings a month in Dublin. Click here for more information on Parent Support or here for contact details of their Parent to Parent Supporters. https://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/Supports_Parenthood_PostnatalDepression
Southward support group for women who have had children removed due to care procedures http://www.together-uk.org/southwark-wellbeing-hub/the-directory/14159/mums-supportive-group/
Hey Mama – is a peer support community for mums struggling with their mental health in Yorkshire https://www.facebook.com/groups/217063725652780/ .
The Mother Side is a support network for new parents http://www.themotherside.org/
7 – Support for BAME mums
The Motherhood Group – connects mothers with one another providing support . It was set up by Sandra Igwe who experienced anxiety after childbirth and said she found it difficult to discuss these issues in the black community. Sandra has set up a great programme where you can select a wellbeing mentor to provide support, information, encouragement and change in your motherhood journey. You are assigned a mentor for six months, will be entitled to 5 sessions via telephone, face to face or email correspondence. Their website is here www.themotherhoodgroup.com
Menucha – Menucha started in 2019 as a group of Orthodox Jewish women in NW London who have first hand experience of perinatal mental health . I met with the founder Rebecca recently and she is creating a unique model of support and I hope to be working with her in the future during the awareness week. Menucha is aiming to open a fully trained helpline in October 2020 but for information prior to that , do see the helpful website – https://www.menucha.info/
Roshni 2 project – support British South Asian women with maternal mental illness. I am great friends with this group and we have highlighted their work during the awareness weeks. They have operated in the North West, Yorkshire, East Midlands , Glasgow and London. Follow their Facebook page for lots of fantastic support information https://www.facebook.com/Roshni2info/
Prosperity’s – Prosperity’s support maternal wellbeing focusing on prevention and social isolation. Rebecca the founder hosted a #PNDhour during the 2019 awareness week focusing on supporting BAME mums in the perinatal period. They are based in London and their details are here https://www.prosperitys.co.uk/
Black Thrive was created was to help change the stigmatism that exists surrounding mental health in the black community. They would like every person and family dealing with mental health to know they are not alone. Black Thrive is there for them https://www.blackthrive.org.uk/Family-support
The Asian Mums Network offer some great pages on Maternal Mental Health and these linked through here https://asianmumsnetwork.co.uk
JAMI – The Jewish Association for Mental Health https://jamiuk.org/
The Muslim Bereavement Support Service can offer advice to mothers who have lost a child http://mbss.org.uk/losing-a-child/
Praxis run support groups for migrant mums and their babies http://www.praxis.org.uk/volunteer-page-24.html
Sikh Mumsnet – An array of information to support Sikh mums including mental health support at sikhmumsnet.com and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Sikhmumsnet/
Acacia have a dedicated programme and section on their website for mums and dads from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. They have tried to pull together some resources to help BAME families and professionals who are looking for help with perinatal mental health problems. https://www.acacia.org.uk/bame/ –
8 – Other groups/apps/organisations that provide support to mums
The Motherload was created in 2015 by Kate Dyson and having started as a small group of 8 mum friends, it now boasts nearly 100k members and is the UK’s biggest parenting community.Fiercly non judgemental, the admin team have built the group to be a safe and supportive environment with posts being moderated before approval. It openly celebrates and supports the lighter side of motherhood but also offers an inclusive supportive network which signposts to support for maternal mental health and domestic violence . During this COVID period, they are running a series of specialist blogs about mental health in this period, home schooling, loneliness in the isolation period and many others. See their website for more details https://the-motherload.co.uk/ and their Facebook group is here https://www.facebook.com/groups/wearethemotherload/.
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
Peanut – Is a free app that connects women across fertility and motherhood. For details on accessing the app see https://www.peanut-app.io/ .
Mush – is an app that allows mums to find friends who live nearby with kids the same age, arrange meetups, get advice from parenting experts and fellow mums. For more information see https://letsmush.com/
The Mum Club https://themumclub.com/about/ run Breakfast Clubs and expert-led evening events in our local areas. They now host events throughout the UK.
HAPPITY is a platform for online baby and toddler classes and information can be found here https://www.happity.co.uk/
Mummy Social – https://mummysocial.com/ is a website and app that offers a solution to the isolation so many mums face.
Mums Meet Up mumsmeetup.com connects mums locally and across the UK and mums are able to search their county and locality to find mums similar by age, age of child and circumstances (such as mums to be, working mums, single parent mums & more). Also, mums of children with disabilities are able to search by similar conditions and location.
SW Mummy https://www.swmummy.co.uk/ SW Mummy is a supportive network for London mums and dads.
The Together Table partners up with baby-friendly cafes and provide a table in your neighbourhood, sensory stimulation for the babes and a focused hosted chat about different aspects of motherhood https://www.tinytable.co.uk/thetogethertable
9 – Breastfeeding Support
There are an array of excellent and supportive Facebook groups to provide breastfeeding support and I am a perinatal MH supporter on a number of them. Do take a look at :
Breastfeeding Yummy Mummies
Can I breastfeed in it off topic discussion
Aversion Sucks – Breastfeeding Aversion peer-to-peer support
NCT Infant Feeding Support line is also open 8am-midnight every day on 0300 330 0700.
Find an IBCLC Lactation Consultant of Great Britain at lcgb.org/find-an-ibclc/
10- COVID support
MATERNAL OCD hints and tips during Covid https://maternalocd.org/resources/
Mental health charity Mind’s guide on coronavirus support
The NHS have produced a helpful document to help support mental health during lockdown – https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/
Action for Happiness have produced this guide to responding constructively during the COVID-19 outbreak and coping calendar with 30 tips to help look after ourselves and others
Meditation, sleep and relaxation app Calm resources on wellbeing
11- Support Resources
At the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, each year when we run the UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we run a series of Facebook Lives to provide support and tools to enable recovery. They have received thousands of views from mums and families and health care professionals find them useful as well.
How to talk to a health care professional about your symptoms
During the 2018 UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, our member Dr Stephanie deGiorgio ran a Facebook live session providing information on how to talk to a health care professional about your symptoms. Dr Stephanie suffered from maternal mental illness herself and knows it can be daunting to reach out for help and open up about your symptoms to a health care professional. In this video she provides information to help mums do this
Take a look. It has been viewed nearly 7000 times so far and has been welcomed by both mums and health care professionals.
The influence of BAME Maternal community groups and mental well-being with The Motherhood Group.
The Motherhood Group takes joy in connecting mothers with one another; through their sequence of events, workshops and fun meet ups where mothers network, get involved in facilitated and focused discussions and interact with inspirational speakers. They create a safe space for mothers to share challenges, triumphs, questions and advice on their personal motherhood journey – such as parenting, relationships and postnatal depression.
Sandra Igwe presented this session during the awareness week. She set up The Motherhood Group – a support network where black women can talk about the issues they are facing.
Take a look at her Facebook live here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=355826345277186&id=587696788088228
Safe Peer Support
Do you want to learn more about the role safe peer support can play in the recovery of maternal mental illness? Aside from the link to the Juno session earlier , take a look at this Facebook live from our members Smile Group.
Maternal OCD and Intrusive Thoughts During the 2017 UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we teamed up with the charity Maternal OCD to deliver this Facebook Live which looks at symptoms and treatment options. This feature looks at intrusive thoughts which we know can be distressing for mums who are experiencing them. We hope this session provides reassurance and insight to both mums and healthcare professionals
Recovery and talking to children about maternal mental illness
With me and my son Joe . My blog is here https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/ and the Facebook live is here :
Post Adoption Depression with Brie .
From her own experiences Brie is beginning to raise awareness on this widely unfamiliar and under diagnosed condition. She is passionate about raising awareness of PAD’s and making a difference for future adoptive families. Do take a look and have a read of Bries blog https://thecoloursofadoption.wordpress.com/ and watch her session here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=583758622120866&id=587696788088228
Young mums and Maternal Mental Illness
During last years UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, we ran a Facebook live session focusing on young mums and their mental health and wellbeing.
The Young Mums Support Network and Young Mums Aid are two social enterprises who are working grass roots with mothers in the local community . They ran the Facebook live and discussed some of the real complex challenges young mums face which impacts their mental health and wellbeing.
During a previous UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week ,Action On Postpartum Psychosis ran a Facebook Live session about Postpartum Psychosis.
If you would like to watch the session, take a look at the link below. For further information about Postpartum Psychosis please take a look at APP’s incredibly useful website https://www.app-network.org/ .
Breastfeeding and antidepressants
Want to know more about breastfeeding and antidepressants? Take a look at this incredibly insightful Facebook live that our lovely friend Wendy Jones held during the UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week :
GP Appointment Checklist – This simple but innovative postnatal mental illness appointment checklist was developed by our members Smile Group for mums who find it challenging to articulate how they feel when speaking to GPs, HVs or midwives http://www.thesmilegroup.org/help-from-the-professionals/
Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit – Your gp has resources to help you if you are experiencing perinatal mental illness. These include the Perinatal Mental Health Toolkit which gives doctors access to things which will help them support unwell mums.
It’s here – anyone can look at it , not just GPs. Some of the members of the Partnership supported the creation of the Toolkit , giving advice from the lived experience viewpoint.
Drugs in Breastmilk Antidepressant Factsheets – https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/antidepressants/
12 – Suicidal thoughts
There are time where scary thoughts about suicide 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:
13 – PERINATAL MENTAL ILLNESSES AND SYMPTOMS
Overview of Perinatal Mental Illness
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 of feeling low, 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 Google, 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 to not only look after them , but you as well. Because you being well is important.
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 throughout . These are proper 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 Baby centre 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 are :
– 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 you wonder ? 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. Have a look at this link from the Association of Postnatal Illness for more information on the baby blues.
Antenatal/Prenatal Depression and Anxiety
As the super helpful NCT website says, antenatal depression can rear its ugly head while you are pregnant. 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. NCT have produced this simple webpage for more information.
Birth Trauma and PTSD
Giving birth can be traumatic but some women who messaged me prior to this blog being written advised that they felt “our antenatal classes conned 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. This is a real quote from a real woman and conveys her real and valid feelings about her own experience.
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 train 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 symptoms 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 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
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 feel a real sense of shame when admitting they think they are suffering. You don’t need to feel shame – motherhood 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 after having a baby. For me , the symptoms were at times worse than my Psychosis. I had a deep fear of my baby and 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 great and will help you get better x
See http://www.app-network.org/ for more info.
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.
It was long. I may have left out lots of stuff that should be in here so do let me know. I will add as time goes on. Lets all support each other during this time and beyond . Because we are all important .
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