Beyond Peer Support: Twitter and Perinatal Mental Health

By Laura Wood, mum with lived experience who campaigns for better perinatal mental health, @cooksferryqueen

Laura has created a Twitter tutorial to help professionals working in the sector to make the most of Twitter for perinatal mental health. Here, she blogs about her story and how online peer support has helped her and others.

A month or so after my son’s traumatic birth in February 2014, I unravelled quite suddenly, and I had no idea what was happening to me. I was experiencing flashbacks, violent intrusive thoughts, and suicidal impulses. I was completely all over the place, and I was terrified. I was aware of postnatal depression, but I also knew that I wasn’t depressed. Continue reading Beyond Peer Support: Twitter and Perinatal Mental Health

New survey by RCOG highlights the urgent need to improve maternal mental healthcare

Today, Wednesday 22 February, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) publishes a survey Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices, supported by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA).

Women with mental health problems during and after pregnancy reveal the impact of low rates of specialist referral, long waits, as well as lack of consensus over medication and little support for their partners.

The survey of over 2,300 women who had given birth in the last five years, explores their experiences of perinatal mental health problems, engagement with healthcare professionals and the quality of care they received.

81% of women who responded had experienced at least one episode of a mental health problem during or after their pregnancy. Low mood was experienced by over two thirds of these women, anxiety by around half and depression by just over a third.

Only 7% of the women who reported experiencing a maternal mental health condition were referred to specialist care and for 38% of the women who were referred, it took over 4 weeks to be seen, with some waiting up to a year for treatment. Care across the country varied significantly with a 20% difference in referral rates in some areas, and the type of care received also varied – in one area only 8% of women were referred to specialist maternal mental healthcare services, compared with 50% in another.

Women frequently reported that they received inconsistent and conflicting advice around whether to continue, stop or change their medication. Care was often rushed and women who voiced concerns were shut down or had to repeatedly ask for help. Lack of continuity of care was often cited as a reason why women felt uncomfortable raising mental health problems with healthcare professionals. Women described a lack of awareness about the range of mental health problems, and that impact of physical conditions in pregnancy on a their mental health was often overlooked. Bereavement care following miscarriage or stillbirth and support for breastfeeding were also reported as lacking.

The survey also revealed that 12% of women’s partners experienced a mental health problem during or after the pregnancy and were provided with little support.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“These survey results reveal the true impact of the care that women with maternal mental health problems currently receive in England and Wales and present a stark picture of how the NHS is letting some of the most vulnerable women in our society down. Only by listening to these women can we learn through their experiences and take urgent action to improve our services.

“Currently the fragmentation of health care provision means that women face a number of challenges accessing the care they need. Access to specialist community perinatal mental health services is crucial and greater integration between primary and secondary care will ensure that women are referred in a timely manner and receive the right support throughout their pregnancy and beyond.

“Healthcare professionals are often the first point of contact that a woman suffering with mental health problems reaches out to and we must ensure that all staff involved in the care of women during pregnancy and the first year after birth have relevant education and training in perinatal mental health. Our role should increasingly be about empowering women to make decisions about their care and in supporting women to help themselves.

“Giving parity of esteem to mental and physical health is crucial and we have some way to go in addressing the stigma associated with mental health. No one is to blame for developing a mental illness and as a society we need to be reinforcing this message constantly.

“There is a wealth of data, evidence and guidance on good practice. Maternal mental health has been made a key priority by Government and funding has been allocated in England and Wales for more highly specialised services. Listening to the voices of women gives us the opportunity of a lifetime to ensure that they and their families get the care they need and deserve.”

Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said:

“We know that suicide is a leading cause of maternal death, and that this represents the tip of an iceberg of suffering that has been ignored for too long. Despite some additional funding, GPs, midwives, health visitors, therapists and specialists providing perinatal mental health care are under extreme pressure, and in half of the UK, pregnant women and new mothers have no access to the care they need, and that the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says they should receive. Yet leaving this inadequate care for perinatal mental health problems adds costs to society of £8.1billion each year, of which over £1billion is borne by the NHS.

“In this survey, women have spoken out. Despite the pain, trauma and stigma these women have faced as a result of mental health problems, they have conveyed a clear and unequivocal message that services in the UK must improve. Women should not have to experience such low rates of referral, long waits, a lack of continuity of care, misunderstanding and stigma. Services must also address the needs of affected partners and children, whose mental health is so often neglected.

“These women have reminded us that the healthcare responsibility and the economic necessity to take action, are joined by a moral imperative to put an end to these unacceptable levels of avoidable suffering.”

Download a copy of the report here.


For media enquiries, copies of the full report and access to case studies, please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7772 6444 or email 

Please tweet this story using #maternalmentalhealth

Continue reading New survey by RCOG highlights the urgent need to improve maternal mental healthcare

What a difference an hour can make – Training GPs in Perinatal Mental Health

By Dr Carrie Ladd, GP, Royal College of GPs (RCGP) Clinical Fellow in Perinatal Mental Health (@LaddCar)

Following our Mums and Babies in Mind (MABIM) seminar for GPs on perinatal mental health in February, we asked Dr Carrie Ladd (far right) to reflect on the event and what was achieved.

Guinea Pigs playing Ping Pong. Not an image I have used in my power point presentations before but it certainly caught people’s attention. Let me explain…

Discussions have been happening for a while between the team at MABIM and Dr Judy Shakespeare (RCGP Perinatal Mental Health Clinical Champion) and towards the end of last year, things started to take shape. The idea was to develop a training package for GPs and other practice staff in perinatal mental health with a view to rolling out the package over the four locations in which MABIM works – Blackpool, Gloucestershire, Haringey and Southend.

Continue reading What a difference an hour can make – Training GPs in Perinatal Mental Health

Commissioning in Perinatal Mental Health: Everyone’s Business

img_2427By Sally Hogg, Strategic Lead, Mums and Babies in Mind

Commissioning is a word that is widely used but not well understood. Commissioners are often seen as those who make the decisions and hold the purse strings, and commissioning as the process through which they use funding to procure (identify, obtain and purchase) local services. But few of us understand exactly what they do or how they work.

In fact, commissioning is much more than just procurement, and should not simply be seen as the role of those who have ‘commissioner’ within their job titles. Commissioning is the process of deciding how to use all the resources available in a system to improve citizens’ outcomes in the most efficient, effective and sustainable way. Whilst commissioners are ultimately accountable for this, they can’t do it alone and effective commissioning requires commissioners, managers, clinicians, and communities to work together to design and deliver pathways of care that produce the best outcomes for local populations. Continue reading Commissioning in Perinatal Mental Health: Everyone’s Business

Establishing a Lead Commissioner in Perinatal Mental Health

img_9948-1By Helen Ford, Lead Commissioner, Children, Young People and Maternity, NHS Gloucestershire/Gloucestershire County Council

Helen Ford is lead commissioner for Children and Maternity Services at Gloucestershire CCG and Gloucestershire County Council and is the lead commissioner for perinatal mental health. The MABIM team are supporting Helen and the perinatal and infant mental health network in Gloucestershire to improve perinatal mental health services. We interviewed Helen about her role as lead commissioner, what the network have achieved and her vision for the future.

Q: How did the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health network in Gloucestershire begin?

The network started a number of years ago when we were trying to get a care pathway together for women with perinatal mental health problems. We wanted to know what each person’s role and responsibility was within the different services and how we could work together better. Continue reading Establishing a Lead Commissioner in Perinatal Mental Health

Angela Style appointed as new MMHA Director

angela-styleAngela Style has been appointed as the new MMHA Director with a focus on MMHA development.  Angela brings over 15 years’ experience in the voluntary sector, working for organisations including Diabetes UK, Save the Children, Family and Childcare Trust, Endometriosis UK and Art Against Knives and has recently completed an MSc in Voluntary Sector Management.

Her appointment follows a recent recruitment process for the MMHA Director position.

Following an internal appraisal/promotion process, MMHA/APP (as the host organisation for the Comic Relief funding on behalf of the MMHA) is also delighted to announce two other staff changes.

Emily Slater (who has been working as the Everyone’s Business Campaign Manager) transitions into the new role of MMHA Everyone’s Business Director from the beginning of January, with the MMHA having a Co-Directorship representing the two strands in the new Comic Relief funding: Angela with a focus on MMHA development, and Emily with a focus on the Everyone’s Business campaign.

Maria Bavetta (who has been working as the  Everyone’s Business Communications Officer) transitions into the new role of Everyone’s Business Champion Network Manager (also from the beginning of January).

A recruitment process for a new Everyone’s Business Campaign Manager and Communications Officer is currently taking place.

Job Opportunities to be part of the MMHA Everyone’s Business Campaign

ebThere are two fabulous job opportunities to join an expanding MMHA Everyone’s Business campaign team as part of the grant recently secured from Comic Relief:

  • Everyone’s Business Campaign Manager
  • Everyone’s Business Campaign Communications Officer

Perinatal mental health is now one of the nation’s leading health priorities. The two roles offer an exciting opportunity to be part of a team campaigning for improved perinatal mental health outcomes across the UK. The roles are part of the Everyone’s Business campaign Phase 2 (hosted by Action on Postpartum Psychosis), and are also being advertised on Charity Jobs.

For details about the Campaign Manager role please click here.

For details about the Campaign Communications Officer role please click here.

Please note the deadline for job applications is 9am Monday 9th January 2017 for both posts.

Training Gloucestershire health visitors to promote mums’ and babies’ mental health

dsc_0027By Catherine Whitcombe, Locality Practice Teacher (Infant Mental Health Portfolio), Gloucestershire

When mums experience mental health problems, it can make it more difficult for them to bond with their babies and provide the sensitive care their babies need. In this blog, Catherine Whitcombe talks about the work health visitors are doing in Gloucestershire to promote mums’ and babies’ mental health. Catherine also spoke at last week’s Babies in Mind seminar about the use of the Neonatal Behavioural Observation tool. You can see a summary of the seminar here

In December 2014 the health visiting service in Gloucestershire provided me and a colleague with the opportunity to complete the Neonatal Behavioural Observation (NBO) training. The aim was to gain a greater knowledge about, and learn new skills in supporting parents in understanding their babies.

Continue reading Training Gloucestershire health visitors to promote mums’ and babies’ mental health

Developing a perinatal mental health strategy

julie-juliff2By Julie Juliff, Head of Maternity Services for Haringey Clinical Commissioning Group

Julie Juliff is Head of Maternity Services for Haringey Clinical Commissioning Group. Mums and Babies in Mind is working with leaders from across services in Haringey to support their work to ensure mums and babies in the perinatal period are given a high level of care. Here Julie talks about the importance of developing a strategy for perinatal mental health services, how she went about doing this and how other leaders can follow in her footsteps.

If a woman needs specialist perinatal mental health services in Haringey, Enfield or Barnet it is currently a postcode lottery of home address and choice of birth location as to whether she will receive this care. For women, their partners and families it is difficult to access appropriate mental health care in our area. In order to improve this it is essential that there is local agreement in how services should be commissioned, designed and delivered. Commissioners we have been working with in Haringey, Enfield and Barnet have identified that this local agreement needs to be one of our priority areas but have also expressed a concern that they might not be able to identify funds to provide these essential services.

Continue reading Developing a perinatal mental health strategy

Standing on the shoulders of giants

By Sally Hogg, Strategic Lead, Mums and Babies in Mind

On 28th November, NHS England announced the 20 areas of the UK that will be receiving the first phase of specialist perinatal mental health development funding. This funding is to support the creation or expansion of specialist perinatal mental health community teams.

This new funding is incredibly exciting: We’ve known for a long time that, while specialist services are critically important, there are huge gaps in provision. More than 40% of areas in England have no specialist community perinatal mental health team, and those that do often fail to reach accepted standards. In this tight financial climate, additional funding will be the enabler that many keen commissioners and providers need to close the gaps in provision.

Continue reading Standing on the shoulders of giants