All posts by Anna France-Williams

MMHA welcomes announcement on specialist perinatal mental health teams across England

NHS England has just announced funding for a second wave of much needed specialist perinatal (pregnancy and postnatal) mental health community services. This follows the highly successful first wave of funding for 20 NHS areas in December 2016.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance has been impressed to see the positive impact that the first wave of funding had on the rapid development of new services. These have brought real improvements in high quality specialised care for mums and babies in many parts of England*. Based on that experience, this second wave of funding looks set to give every mother and baby who needs it access to specialist perinatal mental health services that meet national quality standards, wherever they live in England. The Government pledged the necessary funding in 2014, and NHS England has delivered the services, the trained workforce, and the expert support to make this happen.

Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance said: “In over 30 years working for the NHS I have never seen any national programme produce such a rapid, effective and widespread transformation in services. These new, top quality services have led directly to life saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering. The new developments announced today in England look set to eliminate a long-standing and serious postcode lottery, and will undoubtably make England the world leader in mental health care for mothers and babies.”

Of course, as a campaigning Alliance we want to ensure these services are permanent, and that even more progress is made, to ensure that all mothers and babies have access to the full range of mental health care care they need. We now call for:

  • All CCGs in England to be ready to take over long term commissioning of these specialist perinatal mental health services in line with national quality standards, using the permanent funding they will be given for this purpose. 
  • Northern Ireland and Scotland governments to put in place plans and resources (as in England and Wales) to ensure women and families across all parts of the UK can access specialist perinatal mental health services wherever and whenever they need them. 
  •  The Welsh Government to enhance funding to perinatal mental health services to allow them to deliver care that meets national standards to mothers and babies throughout Wales.

*Please check out our maps which show where specialist services and gaps currently exist across the UK, and see details of our campaign to ‘Turn the Map Green’ www.maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/campaign/maps

Email: info@everyonesbusiness.org.uk

 

 

Support For All: Why maternal mental health matters

This week (April 30 – 6 May) is the second annual UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness week, coordinated by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK. More than one in ten women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year of their baby’s life. Untreated, perinatal mental illness is one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy and the first year after birth.

The members of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance are committed to working together to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all women and their children in pregnancy and the first postnatal year. We want to ensure that care is provided across the pathway for women and their families.

Together with Comic Relief, we recently commissioned Mind and the McPin Foundation to develop a set of principles to help voluntary and community sector organisations ensure that their peer support programmes for mums with maternal mental health difficulties are safe and effective.

Our Campaign, Everyone’s Business, focuses on ensuring that women and families across the UK get access to specialist perinatal mental health services that meet national standards. Our recently launched new maps show where there are gaps in service provision. We want to turn the map green!

Our Mums and Babies In Mind project supports local leaders in four areas of England (Blackpool, Southend, Haringey and Gloucestershire) to improve care and quality of life for mums with mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year of life, and their babies. We capture and share the work we do to inform and inspire those who commission and provide services across the UK.

This week you can join the conversation about maternal mental health on social media using the hashtag #maternalMHmatters. Find out what is happening each day on our website or by following @PMHPUK on Twitter or joining the Facebook group.

Maternal mental health is everyone’s business.

UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week: Support For All

Last year, the first ever UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week took place, led by our member organisation, the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership UK. During the week, the second World Maternal Mental Health Day was celebrated on Wednesday 3rd May with countries around the world marking the day with events and campaigning activities.

This year the second UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Week is planned for 30th April to 6th May 2018.

The theme is ‘Support For All’ with a focus on enabling all families affected by perinatal mental illness to access the information and help they require for recovery. Throughout the week, the hashtag #maternalmhmatters will be used on social media.

The third World Maternal Mental Health Day will take place on Wednesday 2nd May with details on how to get involved here.

Continue reading UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week: Support For All

Women in a quarter of the UK still can’t access vital maternal mental health services

PRESS RELEASE – Thursday 19th April 2018

New maps launched today by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s Everyone’s Business Campaign show that pregnant women and new mums in a quarter of the UK still cannot access lifesaving specialist perinatal mental health services, which meet national guidelines.[1]

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance welcomes the encouraging signs of progress seen in some parts of the UK but raises the alarm: there is not progress for all parts of the country at the same rate, meaning right now, women and families still face a postcode lottery.

Continue reading Women in a quarter of the UK still can’t access vital maternal mental health services

Kirsten’s story

I believe every mother is entitled to receive the level of support I received during my second pregnancy.

Kirsten’s story (Peterborough)

The symptoms I showed during the pregnancy of my first child included OCD, general anxiety and low mood. I spoke to 11 different professionals before I started to receive help. This left me feeling exhausted, and I couldn’t understand why I had to tell my story so many times, and why I was the one trying to organise and get help.

Life-changing care

When my baby was a week old I finally met a perinatal mental health nurse. Straightaway everything began to change for the better. And when I became pregnant with my second child, I had an amazing support experience.

I was referred to the perinatal mental health team at my first midwife appointment. The perinatal mental health nurse who began supporting me was the same one from my first pregnancy, so she understood the problems I was facing. She also arranged for me to have a specialist midwife, who worked closely with the perinatal nurse to coordinate my care.

The nurse also arranged for me to see a psychiatrist to do a medication check, and I worked with a psychologist for nine months. Overall, the care was seamless and they gave me the best help, support and advice.

Need equal access

Because of my experiences, I know how having access to the right services can be life changing for the whole family. I believe every mother is entitled to receive the level of support I received during my second pregnancy. There needs to be more awareness and understanding of the severity of the issue, and CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] and service commissioners need to recognise the role they can play in improving the situation.

 

If the content of this story causes you to think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable, please see our support page for a list of services who may be able to help.

 

 

 

Kathryn’s story

It was through working with the MBU’s child psychologist that I finally started to see my son as a little person and a future where everything was going to be okay.

Kathryn’s story (London)

My pregnancy sailed by in a buzz of baby shopping, scans and antenatal classes. All this changed less than 24 hours after our son was born. We had a very long and difficult labour, followed by a petrifying emergency C-section. We were then placed in the High Dependency Unit, but a few hours later my husband was sent home in the middle of the night. This is when I had my first psychotic episode.

A cruel nightmare

In a medical sense, on that first night, I presented with catatonia. The midwives couldn’t rouse me and I was unresponsive. At first, the doctors thought I’d had a massive stroke. In my head, I had no idea who I was, where I was, or what was happening to me. I did not know whether I had had a baby, a husband, a family, or if this was all some cruel nightmare. I was convinced that I was about to die, that my heart was about to stop, my belly was going to explode.

After that first psychotic episode, my family and I managed to convince the hospital team that it was a one-off event, and that with a lot of family support we could manage better at home. Sadly, we were proven wrong. After just one very stressful and sleepless night, we went to the hospital’s A&E department and begged to see the kindly psychiatrist who had seen me earlier in the week. Thankfully, he swung into action and arranged a bed at our ‘localish’ Mother and Baby Unit [MBU].

Building confidence

At the MBU, things did get worse before they got better. But with the right sedatives and antipsychotics, and lots and lots of rest, I gradually improved. The MBU staff were also incredibly patient and supportive, and it was through working with the unit’s child psychologist that I finally started to see my son as a little person and a future where everything was going to be okay.

Eventually, after many weeks of confidence building in the unit I became well enough to be discharged home. Since then, life has got better and better. I’ve learned how to mother and love my son, and he has become the centre and light of my life.

 

If the content of this story causes you to think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable, please see our support page for a list of services who may be able to help.

 

Laura’s story

I shudder to think how close we came to a very different outcome.

Laura’s story (Surrey/now in Southampton)

When I fell pregnant, I had pre-existing mental health difficulties and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I was known to be high risk for postnatal ill health, but I received little support and few preventative measures were put in place. It seemed that the community mental health team and the midwifery team each assumed it was the other’s responsibility.

My son’s birth was extremely traumatic; it left me physically unwell and I completely shut down emotionally and mentally. About a month later, I started to experience flashbacks, violent intrusive thoughts and suicidal impulses. I felt out of control and terrified.

No one understood

I had no idea what was wrong with me, and as there was no specialist perinatal mental health care where I lived at the time, the healthcare professionals I saw were ill-equipped to recognise what was happening or the danger I was in as I became increasingly determined to take my own life.

After presenting at A&E, and following a lengthy and complex referral process, I was admitted to a psychiatric Mother and Baby Unit. I shudder to think how close we came to a very different outcome.

Trauma-informed care

Having had horrendous previous experiences of inpatient wards, I was apprehensive about the unit, but equally I was thankful to be in a safe place and with my baby. The care we received was excellent, and it was there that I was diagnosed with complex PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder].

This was life-changing for me, as it was the first time that the role of childhood trauma, both in my ongoing difficulties and in my response to the birth, was acknowledged and understood. The perinatal period presents a unique opportunity to break cycles of intergenerational trauma, to radically improve parents’ lives, and to give the next generation the best possible start. We need specialist, comprehensive, trauma-informed perinatal care, accessible to every family.

 

You can follow Laura on Twitter @cooksferryqueen.

If the content of this story causes you to think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable, please see our support page for a list of services who may be able to help.

Maria’s story

I still have no memories of the first year of my daughter’s life.

Maria’s story (Bristol)

My first son, William, was just one day old when he died in 2005. During and after my 11-year-old son’s and nine-year-old daughter’s pregnancies I struggled with a number of mental health problems. With Joel, I felt very anxious whilst pregnant with him, and then felt isolated and depressed following his birth. With Trinity, my postnatal depression was more severe; I also developed maternal OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder, and during her pregnancy I battled with anxiety and depression again.

Crucial peer support

Following Trinity’s birth, I attended my local Mother and Baby Unit [MBU]. It was day two there and I was very low – I felt ‘zombie like’ and disconnected from the world around me. A member of the MBU team came over and held my hand and explained that they understood what day two meant to me and that I wasn’t going to be on my own. I hadn’t joined up the dots of feeling disconnected with the acknowledgement that our first son had died on day two.

What also helped me enormously, and saved my life when I had suicidal thoughts, was peer support from women going through similar experiences. Person centred counselling didn’t necessarily help with my recovery, but it did help me manage intrusive thoughts. And I believe CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] fast tracked the end of my recovery.

Need specialist care

I would like to use my experience to highlight the need for specialist services and individual care during pregnancy and following it. I think its really important that women have access to MBUs, and that MBUs support the whole family, especially when the mum has other children and may be feeling estranged from them whilst with her new baby.

I also believe it’s vital that women receive good advice about medication. This will help a woman suffering from anxiety or depression make more informed choices. In turn, this might help to reduce the severity of her illness and speed up her recovery, giving her a chance to enjoy early motherhood. I still have no memories of the first year of my daughter’s life.

 

If the content of this story causes you to think of anything that has happened to you or someone you know and you feel upset, worried or uncomfortable, please see our support page for a list of services who may be able to help.

Latest campaign e-bulletin published

The Everyone’s Business campaign e-bulletin is now out, including news on why Scotland is calling to turn the map green, an update on new RAG-rated campaign maps coming soon plus a perspective from lived experience on why specialist services are important.  See link below:

Everyone’s Business Spring 2018 e-bulletin pdf

Please circulate far and wide and if you are on twitter please tweet the e-bulletin link using the #everyonesbusiness.

If you would like to receive the e-bulletins directly please sign up to our mailing list using the box on the right.

On International Women’s Day let’s work for equality between mental and physical health

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women from the past, and shine a light on the work being done by women for the pursuit of gender equality. International Women’s Day also creates an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues that many women continue to face across the globe.

Faced with social expectations of motherhood, as well as cultural, religious and economic factors – many new and expectant mums dealing with mental health problems often suffer in silence.

In the UK, more than 1 in 10 women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth, and around half of them have little to no access to specialist perinatal mental health services, making it difficult for them to get the help and support that they need.

Sally Hogg, Strategic Lead for Mums and Babies in Mind said:

“Perinatal mental health has been ignored and undervalued for too long. Not only is it a woman’s health issue, but it is also a mental health issue and we are still a long way from achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health. We will continue to work to ensure that this important area of healthcare gets the attention it deserves – harnessing the powerful voices of women themselves to help make the case for change.”

From health care professionals, employers, to family and friends, we all have a role to play in supporting women who are dealing with perinatal mental health problems. Start by signing up to our Mums and Babies in Mind blog, check out our Everyone’s Business campaign maps to see just how patchy the current provision of services is and visit the new Global Alliance site, launched today.