02 May 2018

Pregnant women and new mums urged to look after their mental health

New mothers, mothers-to-be and their families are being reminded to talk about their feelings in order to look after their mental health and wellbeing. They are also reminded that help and support is available for anyone experiencing high risk mental health problems during and after pregnancy.

During Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 30 April to Sunday 6 May), the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) is raising awareness of mental-ill health during pregnancy and after giving birth.

AWP, which provides services across Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, has a Specialist Community Perinatal Mental Health Service (SCPNS) which provides advice and guidance to women who develop psychiatric disorders during pregnancy, those whose conditions predate pregnancy and women who develop postnatal depression after giving birth.

The service also provides advice and guidance for all health professionals to discuss cases, referral queries, medication advice in pregnancy and breastfeeding and signposting to other services.

Doctor Leanne Hayward, AWP's Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead, said: "Many women can experience mental ill-health for the first time during pregnancy with feelings of vulnerability, anxiety, and some may go on to develop depression. If you have had severe mental ill-health in the past you are more likely to become ill during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth than at other times in your life.

"For Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week we want pregnant women and new mums, their partners and their families to look out for the signs of mental-ill health and seek help and support if needed. We offer a number of services to support mothers, infants and their wider family at what is an incredibly important and precious time in their lives. By intervening early, providing specialist advice, interventions and education, we hope to facilitate recovery, promote well-being and attachment between mothers and their babies, to raise awareness and to reduce the impact of mental health conditions on the next generation."

Advice for mothers and pregnant women:

• If you're worried about your mental health, you can talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor
• Don't be afraid to tell your midwife or health visitor how you feel as this can help them identify if you are unwell or likely to become unwell
• Symptoms that might indicate you have post-natal depression include feeling sad and hopeless, negative thoughts about yourself, not sleeping well or too much sleep, a lack of interest or pleasure in doing things or being with people and loss of appetite
• If you have had a previous mental health illness, your midwife or doctor can assist you with developing a care plan and you may be referred to the perinatal mental health team
• Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth and affects around one in ten new mothers
• Feeling tearful and anxious in the first few days after giving birth is common and is often called 'baby blues.' If symptoms last longer than two weeks, it is best to seek professional advice as the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the quicker you will recover

Dr Hayward continued: "We'd also like to reach out to partners, dads-to-be and family members to look out for the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health so that they can support their loved ones during this time. Pregnancy and the first year after having a baby should be a special time for all family members, so it is important that mothers and pregnant women feel supported and can access the help they need."

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