Tag Archives: postnatal

Evaluation – UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week 2017

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

Themed Days

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.

PNDHOUR 

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 .

Events

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08nsszp/south-today-evening-news-03052017s

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

For more information, see https://www.inspirewellbeing.org/disablilityservices/news/2017/may/women-s-centres-inspired-to-go-on-the-road-to-wellbeing-for-maternal-mental-health-week

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

https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/maternal-mental-health-matters-week-1-7-may/
https://www.familiesonline.co.uk/local/south-warwickshire/in-the-know/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week-2017
http://www.citypregnancy.org.uk/announcements/uk-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/tag/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
https://thedaisyfoundation.com/maternal-mental-health-mothering-place-anger/
https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/pregnancy-news-and-blogs/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, perinatal anxiety, psychosis, PTSD and others
https://www.keepingmummighty.co.uk/single-post/2017/05/03/mmhawareness-sharing-my-story
http://www.tatterhood.co.uk/stop-the-world-uks-first-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
http://www.lilsmirror.com/2017/05/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week.html
http://www.pmhcymru.com/our-first-true-story-for-maternal-mental-health-matters-awareness-week-trigger-warning/
https://www.the-pool.com/health/health/2017/18/robyn-wilder-on-maternal-mental-health
http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/news/free-events-to-help-families-talk-about-maternal-mental-health-problems/
https://www.antoinettesandbach.org.uk/news/local-mp-supports-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: PTSD and me.
http://themuddledmother.co.uk/postnatal-depression/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
https://www.talkingmums.com/tag/uk-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
http://www4.shu.ac.uk/mediacentre/new-course-tackle-maternal-mental-health
https://stockport.mumbler.co.uk/maternal-mental-health-awareness-week-1-7-may-2017/
Maternal Mental Health Awareness 
http://hertfordshiretherapy.org/articles/what-maternal-mental-health-week-all-about
http://www.ncmh.info/2017/05/03/maternal-mental-health-matters/
Maternal Health Awareness – Its okay not to be okay
https://spectrumgirls2.com/category/maternal-mental-health-week-2017/
https://dontdropthebaby.co.uk/category/mental-health/
https://www.thebabyjetsetter.com/single-post/2017/05/04/Why-we-should-all-be-talking-about-mental-health-this-week
https://closeronline.co.uk/real-life/news/mum-blogger-hurrah-gin-dark-side-parent-mental-health-anxiety-depression/
Maternal Mental Health Awareness 
https://www.projectaliveandkicking.org/maternal-mental-health/maternal-mental-health-matters/
https://the-motherload.co.uk/can-will-get-better-recovery-maternal-mental-illness/
http://www.thedegree.co.uk/technology/moment-health-maternal-mental-health/
https://beyondthenicu.com/2017/05/02/maternal-mental-health-awareness-
Maternal mental health week
http://itsliketheyknowus.com/post/160248048524/may-1-7-is-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week
https://www.handonheartjewellery.co.uk/press/maternal-mh/
https://iaptus.co.uk/2017/04/maternal-mental-health-matters/
http://mamamei.co.uk/maternal-mental-health-week-my-depression-anxiety-and-psychosis/
http://www.tacticalmummy.co.uk/maternal-mental-health-matters/
Maternal Mental Health
http://www.talkingmums.com/uk-maternal-mental-health-awareness-week/
https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/sallyann-kelly-new-mums-mental-health-matters-too-1-4436134
http://www.emmasdiary.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-baby-blues-and-postnatal-depression/how-postnatal-depression-is-diagnosed

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 – perinatalmhpartnership@gmail.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

 

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I have slid down the maternal mental health snake. How do I climb the recovery ladder ? How and where to access help for maternal mental illness.

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.

http://apni.org/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 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.

https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/antenatal-depression

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

Perinatal OCD

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:

  1. 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.

TRIGGER WARNING

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.

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/perinatalocd.aspx

http://www.maternalocd.org/index.php

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:

Depressed

Irritable

Tired

Sleepless

Appetite changes

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

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:

Racing pulse

Thumping heart

Breathless

Sweating

Fear that you may have a heart attack or collapse.

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/postnataldepression.aspx

Postpartum Psychosis

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.

Suicidal thoughts

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:

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

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.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=614322175425689&id=587696788088228

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!

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=614488795409027&id=587696788088228

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.

http://www.breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk

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: info@maternalocd.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: support@ocdaction.org.uk

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: info@depressionalliance.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: jo@samaritans.org. 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 

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 info@bluebellcare.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: help@pndsupport.co.uk

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 – office@home-startcentralbeds.org.uk / 01582 660061

Journeys of Hope http://www.journeysofhope.co.uk/useful-links/ Contact info@journeysofhope.co.uk

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: lwise@talktalk.net/ 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, lwise@talktalk.net

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 lwise@talktalk.net 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.

xx