10 March 2020

Mum ‘runs the Bath’ for mother and baby unit

Bath Half JPEG

A mum from Bath who suffered severe post-natal depression after the births of both her children and needed specialist support from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, is running the Bath Half Marathon to raise money for the Trust's Mother and Baby Unit.

Sarah Pritchard will be joined by friend Hannah Cameron McKenna as she pounds the pavements of Bath on Sunday March 15th. The two have smashed their original fundraising target of £800 to raise over £2,000 for the unit.

Ten days after Sarah gave birth to Marni in February 2019, she began to experience the same symptoms she had after her first daughter Pia was born.

Sarah said: "I was unable to sleep during the day, struggling to relax and stay still and struggling increasingly to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. It felt like my brain was wired to Marni, so I couldn't switch off even for a moment, in case she needed me. Every noise and movement she made - I was ready to respond. 

"I had also started to feel the terrifying panic sensations I had after Pia was born. My anxiety feels like hot prickly tingles running up and down my arms and upper back. That doesn't sound like much, but if you've ever felt physical anxiety or panic attacks, you'll know that they are all-consuming and genuinely feel life-threatening."

Fortunately, Sarah had an excellent support network, which included her family and friends, including Hannah. She was aware of the New Horizons Mother and Baby Unit, which is based in Bristol, and asked her health visitor about being referred.

After a number of weeks at home, sleeping tablets, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, Sarah was admitted to the unit.

She said: "Over the next two months - I still can't believe it was that long - I was helped gently through the horrors going on in my head, supported with talking therapies, mindfulness and medicine to be able to sleep, and most importantly to get my bond with Marni back. I always told the staff at New Horizons that I trusted them completely, but that I didn't believe I would get past this cruel illness - that I was some kind of 'one in a million' oddity. Thankfully, they knew better.

"When the team at New Horizons found out I love running, they began to encourage me to make it part of my recovery. I wondered how they expected me to go for a run when I could hardly get out of bed. However, after slowly building from just putting my trainers on for a walk around the carpark, to jogging along the hospital street, by the time I was discharged I was running about twice a week. It felt perfect to train to run the 2020 Bath Half Marathon in honour of all the help I've had."

The New Horizon Mother and Baby Unit offers a specialist inpatient service for women suffering from mental illness during pre-conception, antenatal and postnatal periods, with conditions such as postnatal depression, anxiety, post-partum psychosis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Ward Manager, Laura Nutt-Hunt, said: "Many women suffer with their mental health during and after pregnancy. Our team at the New Horizons Mother and Baby Unit includes psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, nursery nurses, health care assistants and an occupational therapist. We work closely with mothers and their families to assess and diagnose our patients' conditions, create care plans for both mother and baby and ensure that families feel supported throughout their time with us."

Spotting the signs of postnatal mental health conditions

Postnatal mental-ill health can develop gradually and it can be hard to recognise. Some parents may avoid talking to family and friends about how they're feeling because they worry they'll be judged for not coping or not appearing happy.

Signs for partners, family and friends to look out for in new parents include:

• Frequently crying for no obvious reason
• Having difficulty bonding with their baby, looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
• Withdrawing from contact with other people
• Speaking negatively all of the time and claiming they're hopeless
• Neglecting themselves, such as not washing or changing their clothes
• Losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or two hours have passed
• Losing their sense of humour
• Constantly worrying that something is wrong with their baby, regardless of reassurance

Laura added: "It is really important that mothers and pregnant women feel supported throughout their pregnancy and during the first year after having a baby. If you or your friends and family spot the signs and symptoms of mental-ill health speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor as soon as possible to access help."

Sarah and Hannah are running the Bath Half Marathon on Sunday 15th March. To read more about Sarah's story or to sponsor her, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/newhorizons2020

Sarah will be raising money for the New Horizons Mother and Baby Unit through Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust's official charity Headlight.

Headlight works alongside AWP to enhance care and support recovery for AWP patients. Headquartered in Bath, the charity covers Wiltshire, Swindon, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and North Somerset. To find out more go to www.headlightcharity.org.uk

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