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NHS team go the extra mile to support new and expectant mums with perinatal mental illness

An NHS team that supports new and expectant mums with mental health difficulties are putting their best feet forward throughout the month of May to raise vital funds for a perinatal charity.

Members of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Perinatal Mental Health Service team are each walking 165 miles to highlight the distance from their base in North Wales to the country’s only specialist mental health mother and baby unit in Swansea. The team will finish their challenge with a hike up Moel Famau on May 26th.

In doing so, they hope to raise vital funds for Action on Postpartum Psychosis – a UK charity which supports women and their families through one of the most severe forms of perinatal mental illness.

Earlier this month, it was announced that a new specialist Mother and Baby will open at the Countess of Chester Hospital in 2024, supporting parents from North Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside.

The new purpose-built facility will significantly reduce travel times for parents from North Wales, who are currently offered admission to specialist units in Manchester, Chorley, Birmingham and Nottingham.

One in four women will experience mental health problems in the perinatal period and the vast majority of these will receive support in a community setting, without requiring admission to a mother and baby unit.

Since 2021, BCUHB’s Perinatal Mental Health team has supported more than 1,000 women experiencing severe mental health problems such as postpartum psychosis; antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety; maternal obsessive-compulsive disorder; severe attachment issues and birth trauma.

Deborah Griffin, Perinatal Service Manager, said: “Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is a charity which is close to the hearts of all of our team, as we as a team see first-hand how devastating this condition can be for the expectant and new mums and families that we support.

“APP also provide education, training and health promotion to raise awareness of post partum psychosis and perinatal mental illness which is vital to assist perinatal mental health services and other allied agencies to get the message out there in order to ensure that women receive the right care at the right time from the right people.

“The charity provides invaluable support to mums, parents and families affected by Postpartum Psychosis, and we really hope people will give generously to this very worthy cause.”

Harriet Brigham is among those who have benefitted from the specialist support provided by the BCUHB Perinatal Mental Health Service. She developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the premature birth of her first child, which led to her experiencing severe anxiety when she became pregnant with her second.

She said: “The perinatal mental health team have been a vital part of my life and I don’t want to imagine how my pregnancy and anxiety would have turned out without them. This service is vital and there is no shame in admitting that you need help. Sian (Perinatal Mental Health Practitioner) made my life so much better and I would have been lost without her. I will never be able to fully find the words to say thank you for what the team did for us.”

Mel Woodruff benefitted from the service ahead of the birth of her daughter Willow in May 2022. She paid tribute to the ‘life saving’ support put in place by the team to help her through her pregnancy.

“I really felt like I wouldn’t be judged and they were on my side. I was put on medication and they made a management plan that completely saved my life during my pregnancy. This plan was all about me and my challenges and how best to help me. It was put in my pregnancy folder so that all maternity staff could read it and I didn’t have to explain every time why I was the way I was. I didn’t want special treatment, I just wanted people to not judge me and to be nice to me because I was screaming out inside for help and comfort from them. It gave me such a sense of relief that I didn’t have to explain my problems to each healthcare professional on each visit. I felt like it was an invisible shield of armour I carried around.”

To sponsor BCUHB’s Perinatal Mental Health Service team or find out more about their charity challenge, please visit: