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Reflections from the World Association of Infant Mental Health Congress

Sally Hogg, Strategic Lead for Mums and Babies in Mind, shares some of the key themes from the 2018 World Association of Infant Mental Health Congress.

At the end of May, I had the privilege of attending the World Association of Infant Mental Health congress in Rome. Over 1700 clinicians, academics and others with a passion for babies’ brain development gathered to discuss the latest research and practice over four, very full, days.

Each day ran from 8am to nearly 7pm, with 18 streams of activity at most times. It was hard to choose which events to attend, and despite filling my time and my brain, I came away feeling that there were things I had missed (I wish I’d have gone to more of the discussions about dads).

It was educating, inspiring, thought-provoking and exhausting! The lectures, symposia and presentations contained a wealth of fascinating content, and, as is so often the case, so much value also came from the opportunity to meet, spend time and reflect with colleagues with a shared interest.

This blog covers some of the key themes that I took away from the conference. It’s by no means a comprehensive report – one could write for the next year and still not cover everything that was discussed. For those with an interest in learning more, it’s worth looking at the #waimh18, #waimh2018 and #waimhtakehome hashtags on twitter, and at the conference abstracts. Continue reading Reflections from the World Association of Infant Mental Health Congress

Working in a perinatal mental health team

Claire Marshall (pictured left) and Jane Matfin are specialist nurses working in the Hull and East Riding Perinatal Mental Health Liaison Service..

The service supports women with pre-existing or newly emerged mental health problems within the perinatal period. The birth rate for women in this area is approximately 6,500 per year. The team consists of nurses, a consultant psychiatrist, therapist and support workers who all work collaboratively with GPs, midwives, health visitors and social workers.

Claire and Jane have worked in mental health for over 20 years and moved into perinatal care after working in inpatient units, emergency mental health services and leading/managing teams in these areas. Here they talk about the challenges and rewards of being part of a perinatal mental health team.


What made you decide to move from working in crisis mental health care to the perinatal team?

Jane: I felt that I wanted to move from crisis mental health care after many years in that area, where interventions are often short-term with a high turnover of patients. I already knew the staff in the perinatal team and had good working relationships. I valued the opportunity of working in a smaller team with a clearly defined patient group. I feel strongly about women’s place in society and their mental health, and the changes and effects that motherhood can have on their lives.

  Continue reading Working in a perinatal mental health team

Stress in Pregnancy – Society’s Problem

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, which is focussing on stress and its detrimental consequences on mental health.

Here Sally Hogg, Strategic Lead for Mums and Babies in Mind, writes about how managing stress isn’t just a responsibility for individual mums – society needs to think about how we reduce stress on mothers.

At the Maternal Mental Health Alliance we recognise how stress can negatively affect parents’ wellbeing and increase the risk of mental illness. When parents are feeling stressed, it also makes it harder for them to consider, reflect on and respond to their babies’ needs. And a huge body of research tells us that sensitive and responsive care is an essential ingredient in babies’ healthy brain development.

Stress in pregnancy is associated with premature birth and low birth weight. We now know that maternal stress affects babies’ development antenatally too: Research found that babies whose mums had higher levels of stress in pregnancy were more likely to have mental health problems themselves in adolescence.

The research carries positive messages too. The results of stress are not inevitable and there are things we can all do to manage stress and reduced its impact. Furthermore, evidence shows that a good quality relationship between parents and babies after birth can mitigate the impact of early stress on babies’ development, which  is why services that support healthy parent-infant relationships are so critically important.

Continue reading Stress in Pregnancy – Society’s Problem

Maternal Journal – how creative journaling can support pregnant women and new mothers, with a history of mild to moderate mental health problems

Laura Godfrey-Isaacs is an artist, community midwife at King’s College Hospital, London and  a project producer for Maternal Journal.

Maternal Journal was created by myself and psychiatrist Professor Carmine Pariante. It is an interdisciplinary collaborative project with Kings College London’s’ Department of Psychological Medicine & Department of Women’s Health, Ovalhouse and The Royal College of Art. Maternal Journal explores the therapeutic potential of journaling as a way to promote wellbeing and positive mental health for pregnant women and new mothers, who have a history of mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety.

Continue reading Maternal Journal – how creative journaling can support pregnant women and new mothers, with a history of mild to moderate mental health problems

The mother behind the mask – Mothers In Mind’s holistic community support model

Alex Corgier is Scheme Manager of Home-Start Stroud District and Quedgeley in Gloucestershire. In 2017 she ran a perinatal community support project called Mothers in Mind. The project aimed to explore what an ideal model of community support would look like for women experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression from pregnancy up to two years after birth. It addressed the issues of stigma and helped to develop better pathways between IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services and localised community support.

Key lessons from the Mothers In Mind project

Taking the time to collect both qualitative and quantative feedback from local families with lived-experience gave us crucial insight into what works, what works less well, areas that need improvement and the kind of services that women felt needed to be developed or replicated.

Continue reading The mother behind the mask – Mothers In Mind’s holistic community support model

Physical and Mental Health in the Postnatal Period

Emma Brockwell is a women’s health physiotherapist in Surrey, with a particular passion for helping women to recover after birth. Here she writes about the links between physical and mental health in the postnatal period.

Pregnancy and childbirth are life-changing events that affect women both physically and mentally. Whilst their impacts affect women at different levels and in many different ways, it is rare to have a baby and not be affected in some capacity. As a women’s health physiotherapist I see that physical and mental health issues often go hand in hand, but as a system we are very poor at seeing and treating these conditions and giving women the holistic care that they need.

Continue reading Physical and Mental Health in the Postnatal Period

Strengthening parent-infant mental health in Warwickshire

Sophy Forman-Lynch has worked in the field of public health for 24 years in the UK, Pakistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and India.

She has worked in maternal and child health, mental health and well-being, alcohol and substance misuse, offender health, sexual health and asset-based community approaches.

Sophy is currently working for the Public Health Team in Warwickshire County Council with a focus on the ‘early years’. This includes involvement in the re-commissioning of health visiting services.

In 2016 Warwickshire’s multi-agency strategic Smart Start Programme undertook three pieces of research to hear the voices and experiences of over of 1,030 Warwickshire parents of children aged 0-5 years (including expectant parents), and 275 multi-agency staff working with expectant parents and young families.

Parents and workers told us that more needed to be done to promote and support parent-infant mental health and wellbeing in Warwickshire.

The experience of loneliness and social isolation amongst new parents was common, and was frequently reported to have had a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Continue reading Strengthening parent-infant mental health in Warwickshire

Just do it! Using the Pathway Assessment Tool to find gaps in services and improve women’s experiences

Sharon Humberstone from NHS North East Lincolnshire CCG is a Specialist Nurse for Safeguarding Adults and Children, helping practitioners working on safeguarding issues such as gender-based violence, the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and modern slavery. She also supports the Commissioner for Women and Children working on perinatal mental health and co-ordinates iHV Champions training. Recently she has used the Pathway Assessment Tool to identify gaps in services and improve the experience of women experiencing perinatal mental illness.

We asked Sharon how the Pathway Assessment Tool worked for her.

Why did you decide to use the Pathway Assessment Tool?

The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided that we needed to undertake a mapping exercise to look at our existing services and to identify where the gaps are. On recommendation from a colleague at the NSPCC we decided to use the MABIM Pathway Assessment Tool.. We also took the opportunity to re-brand our ‘task and finish’ group as the North East Lincolnshire steering group. This gave us a chance to re-visit the membership and ensure that all partners were included. Our new steering group has representation from the CCG, maternity, health visiting, primary care, CAMHS, IAPT services, NSPCC, children’s social care, service users and adult mental health. Continue reading Just do it! Using the Pathway Assessment Tool to find gaps in services and improve women’s experiences

Normalising paternal mental illness

Here Louis Dunn from Bluebell Care describes his experiences of perinatal mental illness and how people with lived experience can help to ‘normalise’ mental illness.

Bluebell is a growing charity based in Bristol supporting mums, dads and families who are affected by antenatal or postnatal depression and anxiety. I lead their emotional support service for new dads, which is called Dads in Mind.  My role is to offer peer support via telephone and text, one to one meetings and group meet ups.  I have also recently been promoting the Dads in Mind service through talking about my own journey with perinatal illness in media outlets, including print and film interviews. Continue reading Normalising paternal mental illness

Supporting positive conversations about feeding choice and mental health in the perinatal period

by Shereen Fisher and Wendy Jones.

Wendy Jones  is a pharmacist, published author and a Registered Supporter and Trainer with the Breastfeeding Network. Wendy has combined these two roles and has developed a special interest in the safety of drugs in breastmilk. She has run the Drugs in Breastmilk service for the charity since 2007.
Shereen Fisher, Chief Executive of the Breastfeeding Network, has over 15 years leadership and management experience working in the charity sector. She is passionate and driven to improve awareness on issues affecting choice in infant feeding for all families and breastfeeding mothers.

The relationship between how a woman feeds her baby, and her perinatal mental health is a complex one.

Our emotional state and mental health in the perinatal period may affect how we decide to feed our baby. Choosing how we feed our little one may be based on many things such as how our own mum fed us, advice from professionals and what we have seen friends and family do. Our emotional wellbeing – factors such as how we feel about ourselves, our bodies and our relationships – can also influence this decision. Continue reading Supporting positive conversations about feeding choice and mental health in the perinatal period