House of Commons – More Maternal Mental Health Support is Needed!

Since I developed postpartum psychosis four years ago and postnatal anxiety/agoraphobia two years ago after the birth of my boys, I have been anxious. I am not very good when it comes to crowds, public transport and being alone.

Yesterday I took a four hour bus journey to London….yes BUSY BUSY London!!

Lucky for me a lovely lady Sophie was making the journey to London from Cardiff, we decided to catch the bus together.

Sophie and I had been invited to a talk in the House of Commons – The Importance of addressing Mental Health conditions during pregnancy and beyond.

I was so privileged to have been asked and after my year of non stop campaigning for a specialised Mother and Baby unit in Wales,  I felt this was the perfect opportunity for me to meet and talk to others who I have made links with this past year.

Nothing or no one was going to stop me attending this event – Anxiety had to back off today.

The coach trip was easier than I thought, Sophie and I got to know each other and I updated her on my Recovery Mummy plans and developments for Cardiff. I spoke of the mother and baby unit campaign for Wales and she now knows my vision for the future  – Poor Sophie had no ears left after four hours of my waffling haha!

Once in London we made our way to meet some others at a local pub, I walked along the busy streets…I felt my heart race, I felt shaky and nauseated – I hate crowds!

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Once inside the pub I started to relax, It was reassuring to see my friend, fellow campaigner and Welsh butty Mark Williams there.  I sat down, the table was full of people; suddenly I start to recognise people from Twitter – It was like #PNDHour the only person missing was the lovely Rosey Adams!

Today I met with people who I have spoken to online or I have read a personal story regarding their struggles with Maternal Mental Health. Although its a first meeting, I feel I already know them.

To me, these are not just people – these ‘people’ are some of the most courageous and strong human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

They have been there for me and others over the years, these people are the reason that women, men and families have now started to talk about Maternal Mental Health– these people are my friends.

 

Before heading to the House Of Commons I had a little chat with Iain Cunningham an interesting man who has been on a mission to find the truth about a mother he never knew. The BFI has supported a feature doc about his search for information about his mother. ‘Irene’s Ghost’ will be released in 2017 and I can not wait!

Inside the House of Commons we were met by the lovely Raja Gangopadhyay, Consultant Obstetrician.

The event was organised and chaired Raja. The purpose of the event at the House of Commons was for raising awareness on Maternal Mental Health in the society and to remove stigma around the health condition.

The day was filled with talks from professionals and those with a lived experience.

Dr Alain Gregoire spoke of how Maternal Mental Health difficulties was the most common cause of death in new mothers – 1 in 7 Maternal deaths are a result of suicide! He says women are taking a 2nd place in society, women are not getting the support at this most critical time in their lives. He went on to say that this may be down to cultural and society issues. Would maternal mental health be taken more seriously if this was happening to a man?

Next to speak was Antoinette Sandbach MP

As soon as she started to talk my eyes welled up. I had watched her in Parliament talking about how she lost her son Sam to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Antoinette wants better bereavement care for all families suffering in the UK. I caught up with her on our coffee break, I just had to tell her how brave she is for standing up and that I will be helping whoever I can campaign to get better bereavement care in Wales.

Professor Vivette Glover gave a great speech on the effects of maternal stress on the fetus and the childhood development. Sanchita Islam talked about her own personal journey of schizoaffective disorder and perinatal mental health – she promoted and read a chapter of her book – Schizophrenics Can Be Good Mothers Too

Sue AtkinsParenting Expert said a few words about effects on family relations and importance of parenthood education.

Lindsay Robinson spoke after our coffee break about her struggle with postnatal depression and getting a diagnosis in Northern Ireland. Beverly Turner who has a show on LBC spoke of antenatal classes and why home births and Hypnobirthing have a more calming effect on mum and that they should be considered an option for mums.

My friend Mark Williams spoke about fathers mental health and how we can all get involved to help change the NICE guidelines – Dads need to be included!

The last speaker of the day was Clair Rees who spoke about bonding attachment: vital 1001 critical days of human life.

At this great event I met with Andy Meyers a psychologist specialising in child and family mental health who I have followed closely on Twitter – Such a great guy!

I met inspirational author Elaine Hanzak who made me feel welcome,  she is a lovely lady.

I also met with Helen Jeffery a playwright who has brought her own experiences of postnatal depression to life on stage. Helen and I got on very well – it must be my love and respect of the theatre. I am hoping to talk to the Sherman Theatre about this performance and see if we can get in shown here in Cardiff next year!

By the end of the day I was tired, I had a little panic in the coach station as it was so busy but Sophie said she wouldn’t let anything happen to me – I trusted her.

On the late night coach home I started to think about the day….

England are going to get 4 more Mother and Baby units…..

That is great news for England and the many families but I still can’t help but feel sad for Wales and all I fight for.

Wales has no Mother and Baby unit!!

I am trying my best for the families in Cardiff that are affected by perinatal mental health and/or substance misuse. The Family Hub will be based in LLandaff North and fingers crossed all of Recovery Mummy services will be up and running by February 2017 but it is not enough.

I wish the people would wake up!

If a Mothers suffering with depression in pregnancy she can go on to have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression could lead to bonding issues with baby which could have a lasting impact and effect on the child. The child may then require treatment in the future themselves for mental health! This is happening globally!

We have an epidemic of mothers struggling and the NHS are getting away with not funding Maternal Mental Health!

Why cant they see that to Invest in the future, they have to start TODAY with mothers…let’s protect the future…Its not rocket science is it!

Whoops….sorry bit of a rant there…but who wouldn’t get angry by these devastating statistics:

  • 26 per cent of babies in the UK have a parent affected by domestic violence, mental health or substance misuse
  • Domestic violence affects 39,000 babies
  • Mental health problems affect 144,000 babies
  • Substance misuse affects 109,000 babies
  • 36 per cent of serious case reviews into deaths or serious abuse involve a child under one
  • Depression and anxiety affect 10-15 out of every 1001 pregnant women
  • Over a third of domestic violence begins in pregnancy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in about 8 per cent of pregnant women
  • One million children in the UK suffer from the type of problems (including ADHD, conduct disorder, emotional problems and vulnerabilities to chronic illness) that are increased by antenatal depression, anxiety and stress
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth
  • Earlier this year, only 3 per cent of local areas had a perinatal mental health strategy
  • 26 per cent of babies in the UK have a parent affected by domestic violence, mental health or substance misuse
  • Domestic violence affects 39,000 babies
  • Mental health problems affect 144,000 babies
  • Substance misuse affects 109,000 babies
  • 36 per cent of serious case reviews into deaths or serious abuse involve a child under one
  • Depression and anxiety affect 10-15 out of every 1001 pregnant women
  • Over a third of domestic violence begins in pregnancy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in about 8 per cent of pregnant women
  • One million children in the UK suffer from the type of problems (including ADHD, conduct disorder, emotional problems and vulnerabilities to chronic illness) that are increased by antenatal depression, anxiety and stress
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth
  • Earlier this year, only 3 per cent of local areas had a perinatal mental health strategy
  • 26 per cent of babies in the UK have a parent affected by domestic violence, mental health or substance misuse
  • Domestic violence affects 39,000 babies
  • Mental health problems affect 144,000 babies
  • Substance misuse affects 109,000 babies
  • 36 per cent of serious case reviews into deaths or serious abuse involve a child under one
  • Depression and anxiety affect 10-15 out of every 1001 pregnant women
  • Over a third of domestic violence begins in pregnancy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in about 8 per cent of pregnant women
  • One million children in the UK suffer from the type of problems (including ADHD, conduct disorder, emotional problems and vulnerabilities to chronic illness) that are increased by antenatal depression, anxiety and stress
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth
  • Earlier this year, only 3 per cent of local areas had a perinatal mental health strategy

So my goal for next year will be to grow Recovery Mummy and the Family Hub project.

Help develop with proffesionals a model Mother and Baby unit for Wales. Continue campaigning for better perinatal mental health care in Wales, see if I can support anyone with the campaign for better bereavement support and help my friend Mark Williams on his campaign to change the NICE guidelines – lets think about Dad.

Wish me luck!!!

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If anyone wants to help me on my quest for better Maternal Mental Health in Wales please email me – charlotte@recoverymummy.org

 

How I feel 4 years after Postpartum psychosis – Am I really Recovered?

My baby is now a boy…the sweetest most loving little boy you could meet. Four years ago I had already been in labour for over 24 hours, I was excited and nervous about meeting my first child.

I had a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder so was on a consultant led unit at the UHW (university hospital of Wales) I had been in labour so long that if nothing had happened by the following day I would be induced.

I was sent home to wait, I started to get audio hallucinations (hearing things) at home but thought this was due to lack of sleep.

We went back to the hospital the following day and I was induced. Things started to get scary and before I knew it I was seeing things that were not real…My experience of Postpartum psychosis was scary, real and life changing.

Four years on my bond with my first child is amazing, he is such a loving child. We spend lots of time together and have mummy and E days quite often. I felt a guilt for being ill for so long that I often wonder if I spend so much time with him because I am trying to fill a gap. Then I think to myself…’will you stop’ I’m his mum, I spend time with him because I love him!

Silly thoughts like these are something I still deal with from time to time. I can be perfectly happy and then bang!! Stupid little intrusive thoughts pop into my mind. I mean they are better than before but I often wonder if I will ever completely get rid of them.

Another thing that still hangs around is anxiety and panic. Yes you wouldn’t believe it as I seem quite confident but I have to deal with awful anxiety daily. I have certain triggers and I know what they are, I do try to avoid these certain situations but that is why I am still living with panic.

The mind is a mysterious thing and when I experienced postpartum psychosis I stored the things I hallucinated and the  feelings I felt when scared as real memories. I now have to have help to make new memories of those horrid occasions.

I had my first appointment for panic treatment yesterday (long wait) and it was great. I am feeling really positive that I can get better and hopefully I will be able to battle my panic disorder. One thing I really want to get better with is to be in a room alone…yes you heard right, I can’t at the moment sit alone in a room as it starts off my panic.

I think others who have experienced any form of Perinatal mental health problems will relate to me when I say,  I don’t think I will ever be 100% recovered.

There are things I do to help sustain my recovery of mental health problems but when a day is to0 stressful or when I feel like I am not in control I do get a reminder that I must continue to look after myself.

Recovery Mummy groups are a great way to keep me focused. Even if I am having a down day, I just look at the ladies I am helping,  I see them smiling and its all worth it.

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Miscarriage, My Rainbow Baby & Mental Health

This post has been a long time coming, I have often started writing and stopped. It comes quite easy for me to talk about my struggles with perinatal mental health but when it comes to the subject of miscarriage I become uneasy.

On December 4th 2013 I had a miscarriage, I was around  12 weeks pregnant when it happened. I had only just recovered (as best I could) from postpartum psychosis and the pregnancy itself was unplanned and a big shock…but I accepted it and felt positive.

The day the midwife gave me the sad news that the pregnancy had come to an end hit me like a brick wall. I uncontrollably started to breakdown, I felt low, high, angry and sad. What did I do for this to happen, did I over exercise, was it my medication for bipolar, was it a mix of the both!

I felt myself slip to depression rapidly and I spent the next few days at home in bed not responding to people, not eating, dressing or even washing. I just felt this huge guilt, the pregnancy was unplanned so I had been taking medication unaware of the damage it may have caused. I decided I was not going to take my medication…I wanted another baby and I wanted it now…nothing was going to take this pain I felt away any better than replacing the one I had lost…Or so I thought…

On December 30th 2013 I took a pregnancy test…The symptoms when pregnant hadn’t gone, I felt sick and everyone around me thought  I couldn’t accept that the miscarriage had happened. The test result was positive, I was indeed pregnant with my rainbow baby.

Thought I would start to feel better now that I was pregnant  but sadly that was not the case. The depression slowly started to improve but I found I did not want to think about the pregnancy. I hid it away from family and even though I was very sick with this pregnancy we managed to keep it quite until I was around 14 weeks gone.

Once out in the open family and friends were congratulating us and talking about the new baby that was on its way… everyone was happy.

I on the other hand was worried, not only was I scared about losing another baby I was worried for my mental health. I thought about the postpartum psychosis I had just recovered from and the months of treatment I had endured. I was only just feeling good again, I was only just bonding with my first child. Was this a mistake?

As the months went on I ignored my fast growing bump, concentrated on my first-born and gave him as much love and affection I could ever give. I didn’t want to connect with the bump, had done that first time round and look what happened there. I was not going to accept the bump was a baby until he/she was born.

It was bumps due day, felt good that we had gone the whole way without any major problems. I went into labour that day and whilst in labour bumps heart rate was worrying the midwife. That was the moment I realised just how much I had subconsciously connected with bump. I was so worried, my main focus was delivering a healthy baby who I was going to shower with love.

The moment I set eyes on my blue-eyed boy my heart melted…had never felt as much love as I did right then. Was this how it felt for other mothers who had given birth? I had been robbed of this feeling the first time round due to postpartum psychosis and  belive this  feeling could have triggered the  postnatal anxiety I was going to suffer. I felt anxious and guilty for not feeling this way first time round.I have previously wrote about my struggles with postnatal anxiety it can be found here https://recoverymummycardiff.wordpress.com/2016/05/23/perinatal-mental-health-a-partners-role/

It is not only me who has experianced this sad situation, women worldwide are facing this everyday. More needs to be done, more awarnessnes and more support.

 

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Perinatal Mental Health – A Partners Role

Becoming a mother is a beautiful and life changing experience…you go from thinking about one person to thinking about a tiny, new little life. You know things are going to be tough, you think you are ready… you have watched read ‘what to expect when you are expecting’ and even bought and flicked through Conception, Pregnancy and Birth: The Childbirth Bible for Today’s Parents by Miriam Stoppard, yet nothing prepared you for perinatal mental health difficulties.

By perinatal mental health difficulties I mean pregnancy or postnatal depression, anxiety or postpartum psychosis. Although I developed postpartum psychosis after the birth of my first child, for the purposes of this blog I am relating the my experience of postnatal anxiety.

After the birth  of my second child I felt pretty good all things considered. The birth of my child was quick and straight forward, I felt an instant bond and I was not experiencing psychosis…bonus!!

However, I was to experience perinatal mental health difficulties once again…

Postnatal anxiety is crippling, it can take someone who is happy, outgoing and turn them into a nervous wreck…it can makes the simplest of tasks almost impossible to achieve but to those around you, you look fine and capable so all must be good.

For me the anxiety was intense, I had suffered with agoraphobia for sometime as an adolescent so I felt I was back to square one. I could not take a foot outside my front door alone for fear that I would have a panic attack and die. I could not be left alone either as for the same fear that I would have a dizzy spell…faint and my children would be alone in the home.

The anxiety had its hold of me from the day I arrived home from hospital and within two weeks of giving birth I weighed less in body weight than I did before I fell pregnant! This rapid weight loss from extreme anxiety was so bad that the doctors were concerned and sent me for all kinds of tests…this only added to my anxiety and then I found I was now scared and anxious that I was seriously ill and I wouldn’t be around for my boys.

In all this was my husband…my rock and my voice of reason.

Dads/partners play a vital role in a mothers recovery from perinatal mental health difficulties. When feeling lost, alone and anxious a partner can be the calm that is needed to help a mother see things differently. A partners role in a mums recovery is top of the agenda, they can be more beneficial to mum than professionals at times.

My husband had to stop working when I had postnatal anxiety, I was so nervous that even something simple like him going to our local shop would start me off.  I would hang around our front door or by our living room window waiting for him. I would pace back and fourth from window to door waiting anxiously. If he was taking a little longer than usual I would start to cry…my head would start spinning and I would hyperventilate, I would then be violently sick.

This behaviour of mine was awful and I would feel guilty that I was making him stay home with me, he never made me feel bad for it. My partner would try to help in anyway he could. He would take the bus with me to meet my friend in a coffee shop and then hang around the local shops just so I would feel a little independence. i would feel safe knowing that he was close enough if I needed him. Some might say I depended on him to much but when you are feeling this anxious who else but a partner are you to lean upon.

Although my husband had to give up his work he still continued with his university night course and we would get family members to babysit keep an eye on me when he was not home.

When I felt this way my husband would remind me daily that it would pass, that I was a good mum, wife and that we had been though worse. He didn’t once make me feel guilty that he had to stop work to take care of me and that it was impossible for him to have any sort of social life. He was there to care for me and even when our finances become strained he didn’t want to worry me further so took it upon himself to deal with it all. I feel this affected his mood and although he would disagree with me I believe he became depressed for a while.

I look back now and I know that my recovery would not have been possible without the support of my caring partner, the way he would rationalise every crazy thought I’d have or be there when I felt like giving up.

I often think back to our appointments and home visits from professionals and I think once someone asked how my husband was coping. Now that’s crazy when you consider everything my partner had to give up to support a nervous wreck of a wife and with no professional training either. I believe partners are key to a mums recovery and they need support just as much as mothers do. When will people see that…food for thought eh…

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