Louise’s story (Oxfordshire)
I suffer from bipolar disorder and was treated with lithium. For five years my husband and I had raised with my psychiatrist the issue of us trying for a family, but she kept failing to find out about what changes to medication would be advisable before conception.
Eventually, my husband did some research and found out about a perinatal psychiatrist in London. The hour we had with her meant such a lot after all those years of the issue of us wanting children being brushed aside. We felt empowered, and following her advice I gradually came off the lithium.
They were wholly unprepared
The following year I conceived but found my CMHT [community mental health team] wholly unprepared for issues that arose during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Prevention better than cure
Despite our best efforts to minimise me becoming mentally unwell after birth, things still did go wrong. I had a difficult delivery and ended up in hospital for a week. This led to me not seeing a psychiatrist for 10 days, even though after five days I developed a very pronounced stress-related speech impediment and wasn’t sleeping.
I strongly believe the care you receive should not be decided by a postcode lottery and that prevention is better than cure. Money and resources need to be directed towards supporting women with mental health issues and their families throughout pregnancy and the first year after birth. I’m sure this would avoid many acute episodes of mental ill health.