Category Archives: News

APP 2021 Survey

We are launching APPs biggest ever survey about the care women receive for postpartum psychosis. We’d like to reach at least 500 women who have experienced PP.

The survey will help us to understand how differences in the types of care women receive for postpartum psychosis impacts on their experiences and recovery outcomes. The findings will help with our campaigning over the next 10 years.

The survey coincides with APP’s 10 year anniversary. Since gaining charity status in 2011, we have caused a sea-change in awareness of PP, services, and support. This survey will also help us understand the way that care has changed in the ten years since our last survey.

The survey takes about 20-30 minutes to fill in and asks about your care for PP. If you have completed it by post in the past 2 weeks - or if you have been a member of APP for a long time and completed the survey 10 years ago - you do not need to complete it again.
You can find more information and take the survey here: https://bit.ly/APP2021SURVEY

If you haven’t had PP personally, you can still help us by sharing the link with anyone who has. You can read more information about our biggest ever survey here:  https://bit.ly/APPINFO

We’d like to say a huge thank you in advance for taking the time to complete this survey.

Click here to take the survey

Spring bulb planting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year the Royal Horticultural Society joined forces with BBC’s The One Show to bring the ‘Garden of Hope’ to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show (21st to 26th September 2021). The garden is now being donated to the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) Rosewood (part of Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust). The beautiful blooms will help create a sanctuary and place of hope for the mothers and babies there. There are more details about the project in this article

To tie in with this lovely idea, APP volunteer Gemma Vinter (pictured above, left) has been sourcing donations of bulbs to give to the UK’s 22 MBUs to help brighten up their grounds.  

Gemma teamed up with staff at Stafford’s MBU to plant 240 spring bulbs, kindly donated by J.Parker’s Dutch Bulbs in the ward’s garden. She visited the Brockington Unit at St George’s Hospital in Stafford in September, and was joined by Laura Fox (pictured above, right) from the MBU as well as other members of the team. 

Gemma says she hopes that spending time outside with lots of lovely plants and flowers will encourage a little bit of “me time” to help patients’ recovery, alongside the invaluable help and treatment that MBUs provide.

Laura and some of her colleagues from Brockington MBU climbed Snowdon on 2nd October to raise money for APP.  You can find out more and still donate to their challenge here

APP would like to thank Gemma and all the staff at Brockington MBU for their hard work and support.

 

Campaign for better care for postpartum psychosis this World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day on Sunday 10th October 2021 and this year’s theme is ‘mental health in an unequal world.’

Each year about 140,000 mums around the world will experience postpartum psychosis. Their experience of care varies hugely. Within the UK inequality remains. In Northern Ireland, around 35 mums will experience postpartum psychosis each year, with no access to a Mother and Baby Unit. In Wales, 50 mums will develop postpartum psychosis: mums in the north have to travel to South Wales or over the border into England for care. Half of the mums in Scotland who need a Mother and Baby Unit bed still do not receive one. General psychiatric wards are inappropriate for newly-delivered mums, lacking appropriate facilities, access to specialist professionals and knowledge, and forcing separation from babies.

We are using World Mental Health Day to further raise awareness of postpartum psychosis and campaign for better care – including more Mother and Baby Units to help keep families together and to recover more quickly.

How you can help this World Mental Health Day:

Join APP's call for access to Mother and Baby Units for mums who experience postpartum psychosis wherever they live in the world. We’d love for as many people as possible to help us spread our message.

#KeepMumsAndBabiesTogether
You can help by sharing our social media posts on World Mental Health Day.

Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
See us on Instagram

Remember to tag @ActionOnPP and use the hashtags #KeepMumsAndBabiesTogether and #WorldMentalHealthDay

If you live in an area of the UK without access to a Mother and Baby Unit please get in touch by emailing app@app-network.org. We'd love to hear your story.

Other ways to support this World Mental Health Day:

Go The Extra Mile For @ActionOnPP
To raise much needed funds in support of our work, join our #MilesForMumsAndBabies fundraising challenge. This World Mental Health Day we are asking people to ‘Go The Extra Mile For @ActionOnPP’ and donate £2 to support our #MilesForMumsAndBabies 2021 campaign. Donate here: https://bit.ly/DonateToActionOnPP.

Sign the petition for a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland
Action on Postpartum Psychosis volunteer, Oorlagh Quinn, has set up a petition calling for a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland. More than 3,000 people have signed the petition so far but we need more signatures. Find out more about Oorlagh’s campaign for a Mother and Baby Unit in Northern Ireland and sign the petition.

Volunteer with us in Northern Ireland
If you have experienced postpartum psychosis and live in Northern Ireland we’d love you to become a volunteer with us as we try to build our peer support, campaigning and storytelling networks in the region - join the APP Network.

Cyclist to travel 850 virtual miles raising awareness of support needed for partners during postpartum psychosis

APPs Partner Peer Support Coordinator, Simon O’Mara, is embarking on a mammoth 851 mile journey to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis, its impact on partners and the need for more Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in the UK.

Simon came up with the idea of a virtual tour of the UK’s MBUs to highlight their importance in caring for women who develop postpartum psychosis and their families. He hopes to raise awareness among women, partners and families of where the UK’s MBUs are and, importantly, the need for units in areas of the UK currently without them.

Simon, whose wife was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis 15 years ago, said: “When my wife was diagnosed it was a frightening time – not least because we had no prior knowledge of postpartum psychosis. But in many ways I feel that we were incredibly lucky in that we were able to access care in an MBU less than a 40 minute drive away – in my work with APP, I realise that many other families aren’t so lucky.”

Postpartum psychosis is a debilitating postnatal mental illness that can occur out of the blue in the days following childbirth. New mums with postpartum psychosis may develop high or low mood, or fluctuate between them, alongside delusions, hallucinations or severe confusion. Many of these mothers have had no previous mental health diagnosis prior to onset – although women with bipolar disorder are at higher risk. It affects around 1,400 women and their families every year in the UK and is always considered a medical emergency. However, it is treatable and women go on to make a full recovery with the right support.

Simon added: “APP has been campaigning for more MBUs for many years now, and cycling the distances between these services felt like a really good way to show just how these gaps in provision can affect families.”

Simon had planned to follow the route on the road, however, due to the pandemic, he invested in a smart trainer so he could complete virtual cycle rides using his own bike and smart technology. He will now follow the route virtually using the smart trainer, linking in with the MBUs along the way for online chats with MBU staff about partner support, and talking to other partners who have been affected by PP.

Dr Jess Heron, Chief Executive, APP, said: “Families across the four UK nations are often faced with difficult decisions about receiving specialist MBU care many miles from home or being admitted to a general psychiatric ward. As women can expect hospital treatment to last 8 to 12 weeks, and full recovery to take many, many months, this distance can be an enormous pressure on new families. Families in Northern Ireland, North Wales and the North of Scotland do not yet have access to an MBU in their region.

“While we know that experiencing a severe mental illness at this time can be devastating for women, our research shows that partners also describe the experience as the most traumatic of their lives. Many men describe long-term impacts on their own mental health. NHS England has made a commitment as part of the Long Term Plan to inform, signpost and support partners. We hope other regions of the UK will follow suit. MBUs play a vital role in supporting partners and entire family units at this time and have expertise that general psychiatric units do not have.

“We have been working with partners for a long time at APP to support them with information and signposting about postpartum psychosis and getting help, but we are delighted that we now have a dedicated peer support team who can provide email, telephone, forum and video call support for dads and partners. We work closely with all UK MBUs to ensure that all who need it have access to peer support when postpartum psychosis impacts their family.

”We are so grateful for Simon’s commitment to raise awareness of the support needs of partners and we will be cheering him on from the ‘virtual’ sidelines!”

APP delivers award-winning peer support services working in partnership with NHS Trusts around the UK, manages an online national peer support forum and facilitates impactful research into postpartum psychosis.

To find out more about Simon’s story, and to sponsor his cycle ride, please visit his JustGiving Page

If you are a partner and use Swift, Simon would love some support and virtual chats as he completes his journey. You'll also be able to follow him on Strava.

You can see  daily updates below; 

Day 1 update 02/10/21: Simon completed 41 miles, which is the equivalent from West of Scotland MBU (Glasgow) to St. John’s, Livingtston.

Day 2 update 03/10/21: 45.2 miles ridden, total mileage over the weekend now at 85.2 miles. 

Day 3 update 05/10/21: Simon is working in the week, so cycling in the evening. 24 miles done this evening.

Day 4 update 06/10/21: Simon cycled 26 miles in the evening, is 96 miles into stage 2, with a total of 136 miles completed to date.

Day 5 update 07/10/21: 26.5 miles completed with a 1,098ft climb.

Day 6 update 08/10/21; Sees Simon finish stage 2, a total of 179 miles into the journey and Beadnell MBU.

Day 7 update 09/10/21: Simon has now completed a total of 209 miles, and has a virtual meet with Beadnell MBU in the morning.

Day 8 update 10/10/21: Simon had a great virtual meet with Beadnell MBU this morning, having reached Morpeth last night. They talked about the support they not only provide for the mums but also the partners and families. A small unit and noticeable the large mileage between MBUs around this area, some partners/families having long journeys to visit their wife and baby. That's stage 2 complete. Simon is now 179 miles into the journey and about to start stage 3 a 121 mile stretch.

Day 9 update 11/10/21: Simon cycled a short stint today, just to keep the legs turning -10 miles. Stage 3 and Simon has completed 85 miles; only 35 miles to go till the end of this stage.

Day 10 update 12/10/21: A 24 mile ride, sees Simon only 12 miles from the end of stage 3 and shortly getting to Parkside Lodge MBU. 

Day 11 update 12/10/21: Another short cycle of 12 miles, keeping an average speed of around 22mph and sees stage 3 complete. Meeting with Parkside Lodge MBU today.

Day 12 update 13/10/21: Another quick 16 miles sneaked in. Meeting with MBU at Ribblemere meet on Sunday. Received a message of support from the MBU Bristol

Day 13 update 15/10/21: 342 miles in to the journey, around 40% of the cycle done. Another 26 mile ride competed tonight and 1038ft climbed, leaves just 24 miles to the end of stage 4 and the meet up on Sunday afternoon. Catching up with Kieran at Dad Matters Friday afternoon for a live Instagram.

Day 14 16/10/21: Stage 4 complete and an extra mile started on stage 5. Just about to go and have a small ride for today

Day 15 17/10/21: Another small 16 miles ridden, well into stage 5 and today should see Simon finish that stage. Simon met up with Karen and Andrew at Ribblemere MBU, it was really good to meet and hear the support they provide.

Day 16 18/10/21: Stage 5 complete and onto Stage 6. The next meeting is with Adele at Andersen ward, Wythenshawe MBU  on Tuesday, which represents the end of stage 5.

Day 17 19/10/21: Simon was able to get another 16 miles (climb of 912ft) done and get the total miles cycled up to 415m, just another 11 miles to go before he reaches half way. So he is on stage 6 heading towards the Beeches.

 

 

A day in the life of…a Peer Support Facilitator

Natalie Thompson has worked with APP since 2019 and is based in our Birmingham and Solihull peer support team. Having experienced PP twice herself in 2003 and 2007, and later being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010, Natalie helps support women and families affected by PP (or other illnesses featuring manic or psychotic symptoms). After treatment in an acute psychiatric ward and fantastic care at the Birmingham Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), Natalie knows how challenging it can be to settle back into everyday life.

Here, she shares a typical day in the life of her role with APP.

09:00

I always start the day with a cup of tea (never coffee!) to wake me up. Steaming hot brew at the ready, I’ll open up my laptop, check my emails to see if there’s anything urgent I need to respond to, and then I’ll make a plan for the day. I also have a paper diary to cross reference with to make sure I don’t miss anything – I haven’t quite managed to go entirely paperless yet!

09:30

Armed with another cup of tea, I’ll call the women on my caseload to check in and see how things are. In normal times, this might be a face to face chat but during the pandemic we have tried to stay in touch by phone or zoom meetings. I know from personal experience that chatting to someone who has been through what you have is such a big help and makes you feel less alone in your recovery (which also helps to speed up recovery). From these calls I’ll write up my notes to make sure I am able to reflect on any areas I need to follow up on.

11:00

To end the morning, I might refresh my skills by taking part in training and shared learning. Sometimes this will be provided by the brilliant team at APP, but, as a partner of the local NHS Trust, we are also able to access NHS training and development too. It’s always good to keep learning and hearing best practice and I feel lucky that this is something APP is so supportive of.

12:30

Time for a lunch break. One of the perks of working from home during the pandemic is that my husband always makes our lunch which gives me more time to simply switch off for a break. He usually prepares nice healthy meals – but always tends to over do it with the mayo! (Not that I’m complaining!)

13:30

After lunch, I might attend an MDT meeting (multi disciplinary team meeting – one of the by-products of working in health is the number of acronyms you become accustomed to!). This might be attended by clinicians, nursery nurses etc.... and some of the issues we might address could include women on the high risk pathway and admissions to the MBU. Next up – it’s finally time for my one and only cup of coffee of the day! If I have any more than one I'd be bouncing off the walls!

14:30

Next I’ll make sure I get moving and get some fresh air by doing a socially distanced walk with one of the women on my caseload who is recovering from PP. These ‘walk and talk’ peer support meetings have been great during lockdown – especially for women who feel anxious leaving the house alone and those who don’t have a great social network. Getting out is difficult for new mums as it is, but even more so when you’re recovering from severe mental illness – and we know that exercise and fresh air both contribute to wellness so it’s a win-win.

15:30

Next, I might prepare for the APP café group – a session where several women get together to share their experiences or just to socialise with others who have been through similar experiences. When restrictions allow, these are all done in a physical space, so I’ll check out the venue, make sure they have good facilities and space, etc. Then, I’ll email participants a little reminder or, where outdoor café groups take place, check on the dreaded weather!

16:30

Time to clock off. That’s the great thing about working for a charity that’s committed to mums and babies spending time together – they like to ensure your work doesn’t eat too much into your family time! So even when I work from home I’m pretty strict about clocking off at the end of my shift and joining my family for a relaxing evening.

To find out more about current APP peer support job vacancies, click here.

 

 

 

 

Book review: The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

Reviewed by Hannah Bissett

As a Mum who has experienced PP I was intrigued to read this book.  The author really evokes the area the book is set in, providing a landscape backdrop (and accurate weather, as a fellow northerner I know!) to the character’s story as it unfolds, intriguingly through a mixture of “Now” and “Then” chapters.  At first this slightly threw me in terms of what was going on in the story but it also intrigued me and as one reviewer also wrote, I too had devoured the book in the course of a weekend!  It is a gripping read – intertwining the present-day life of Leah and her recollection and reflections on past events, and her search for answers about her life and the people she brings into it in the aftermath of her husband’s death.

“A powerful story which will resonate for many”

The book reaches a climax with spine-tingling terror and reality, describing postpartum psychosis and the past events and present terror that culminates in a devastating final chapter.  An Author’s Note at the end of the book gives clear information about postpartum psychosis and also signposts to APP, emphasising the importance of getting help and treatment for this psychiatric emergency.  The book is not an easy read in places but it is a powerful story which will resonate for many and will stay with me too.

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood is available from all good retailers. Check out the publisher’s link for more information and how to buy.

 

Wales Mother and Baby Unit Pamper Packs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A huge thank you to APP Volunteer Gemma for organising pamper packs to be delivered to the new Uned Gobaith (‘Unit of Hope’) Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) in Wales by our South Wales Team, Ines Beare, Danielle Thomas and Barbara Cunningham.

The packs included make-up items from Boots UK and Soap & Glory to help mums feel special and leaflets about APP’s peer support for mothers and families. Gemma organised the packs as a way of giving mums a little bit of “me time” to help their recovery, alongside the invaluable help and treatment that MBUs provide.

Gemma has been a volunteer with APP since 2018, and her husband Stephen ran a Virtual Marathon for APP in May 2021.  She previously organised pamper packs to be delivered to all MBUs before Christmas in 2020. You can read an article about this here.

Gemma says “I suffered with postpartum psychosis in 2017.  Through this I gained an understanding of severe anxiety and depression and wanted to train as a peer supporter in 2018 in order to support others through their recovery journey. I also support the Birmingham project through attending the cafe group and really enjoy making a positive impact on others’ recovery. In Christmas 2019 I returned to my own MBU in Stafford and was able to thank staff and provide a small number of pamper packs. I feel this is such an important step for mums not only to promote relaxation and self-care, but more importantly to raise awareness of APP, the support available and the ways in which they can get in touch.”

Danielle Thomas, APP’s Assistant South Wales Coordinator said ‘Ines, Barbara and I had the pleasure of dropping off some pamper packs for the mothers who are staying in the new Uned Gobaith. We are very grateful to be able to deliver these on behalf of APP and our Volunteer Gemma. They contained lots of self-care goodies to help lift the women's spirits and we have already received a message from one of the  mothers to say how lovely they were! Sending lots of love and good wishes to them, from us, and all at APP’.

Thank you Gemma, for all your hard work in organising the packs, and also to our South Wales Team Ines, Danielle and Barbara for delivering them to the Wales MBU.

NHS partnership increases peer support across Black Country for mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis

Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is partnering with national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) to expand specialist peer support services across the region.

Recruitment is currently underway for a dedicated peer support facilitator to work with mothers based in the Black Country who have experienced postpartum psychosis – a severe postnatal mental illness. The service will be managed by APP in conjunction with the Trust, to support women on their road to recovery.

Postpartum psychosis is a debilitating postnatal mental illness that can occur out of the blue. New mums with postpartum psychosis may develop high or low mood, or fluctuate between them, alongside delusions, hallucinations or severe confusion. Many of these mothers have had no previous mental health diagnosis prior to onset – although women with bipolar disorder are at higher risk. It affects around 1400 women and their families every year in the UK and is always a medical emergency. However, it is eminently treatable and most women go on to make a full recovery with the right support.

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “We currently run a number of successful peer support services across the country commissioned by the NHS, including one in partnership with nearby Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. In combining this type of peer support with the necessary clinical care required we can ensure that women receive a truly holistic, sustained and specialist treatment. It can be daunting leaving hospital after experiencing something as confusing and frightening as postpartum psychosis, so making this additional support available within the community is invaluable for ongoing recovery. Being able to support women and families at this critical stage is key to reducing the trauma, giving hope, and helping women and families feel less alone as they navigate the recovery process.”

Hannah Bissett, National Co-ordinator (NHS Contracts & Regional Projects), Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “As a woman who has personally experienced postpartum psychosis I know how isolating and afraid it can make you feel. Peer support is a vital piece of the recovery jigsaw and we now have over 2,800 lived experience users sharing their stories and receiving support from trained volunteers as part of our national peer support forum.

“Having somebody there for you who knows exactly what you’re going through and who can inspire hope will undoubtedly bring a sense of relief and reassurance to women in the region who may find themselves experiencing postpartum psychosis. We’re delighted to be partnering with Black Country Healthcare on this project and I’m looking forward to hearing from applicants with lived experience interested in the peer support role.”

APP already delivers successful and award-winning peer support services working in partnership with NHS Trusts around the UK, as well as managing a thriving online national peer support forum. The charity also provides peer support for partners of women who are experiencing or have experienced postpartum psychosis.

To find out more about the Peer Supporter role, visit www.app-network.org/jobs

 

 

International Fathers Mental Health Day

For International Fathers Mental Health Day (21 June 2021), Simon, Partner Peer Support Facilitator for Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), shares a little of his own experience of supporting someone with postpartum psychosis and the effect it can have across the family.

Spotlight on postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis (PP) - never even heard of it? Neither had I but it would shortly become one of the biggest learning experiences I’d ever endured and really tested my mental well-being.

In the first couple of weeks after my wife gave birth, I had noticed subtle changes in her mood, but, as a first-time father, I didn’t really know what was ‘usual’ or ‘unusual’ after birth. A few weeks later and these changes took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, things became very scary, very quickly.

Over the next few days, she woke in the early hours ‘ghost like’, her mood had plummeted, she was anxious, confused, pacing around the house, having delusions and hallucinations, ultimately it all ended in a 999 call.  I found myself in complete turmoil and throughout our journey with PP, had times where I went through every emotion possible - from being terrified, to feeling isolated, worried about the future and even feeling guilt-ridden for decisions I’d had to take; with little sleep, the pressure I felt was enormous, however, the support we received from family, friends and eventually specialist health professionals treating my wife was vital.

Now working as the Partner Peer Support Facilitator for Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), the leading national charity for women, partners and families affected by PP, we know how difficult PP can be and how it affects not only the women who directly experience it, but also the partners and families who watch their loved ones go through it. This trauma can have a lasting effect on the wider family’s mental health, if not supported appropriately.

Father’s mental health

For partners, seeing the symptoms of PP first-hand can be a truly traumatic experience. The following are just a couple of the many quotes from partners:

“She just stood there and screamed.”

“Somehow she had changed the world and she was watching the news, in the belief that she would see herself on it and they would report on what she had done.”

During the initial crisis, many partners describe feeling like their world has been turned upside down, with little or no control over the situation. They often talk of not knowing what was happening, feeling alone and scared; desperate to find information and to help their partner.

Postpartum psychosis as a father or partner, feels very much like a journey with a number of possible stages, from the initial crisis, potential admission to hospital, returning home and recovery - all of which bring different feelings and concerns to the fore. Just holding it together, having to keep strong for your wife or family members can sometimes see you not considering or letting on how worried you are, which in turn can lead to fathers suffering with their own mental ill-health.

What is postpartum psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a severe but treatable form of mental illness. It usually starts within the first couple of days to weeks after childbirth. Some develop symptoms very quickly whereas for others, symptoms can be more gradual or come and go.  50% of women experience postpartum psychosis “out of the blue” with no previous history of mental health problems.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms often include:

• Confusion or racing thoughts

• Feeling unusually high or elated

• Being unable to or not needing to sleep

• Beliefs that are unusual or concerning to others

• Seeing, hearing or sensing things that others can’t

• Anxiety

There are a great many other symptoms that can be experienced and you can find more information by visiting the following link: www.app-network.org/early-symptoms

Getting help for your partner

It is important that PP is always treated as a medical emergency, which requires rapid intervention and is best treated in a specialised Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). With the right treatment and support, women with PP do make a full recovery and families are able to move on with their lives together.

• If your partner is under the care of a mental health team, contact them or your Crisis Team

• If your partner hasn’t been in mental health services before:

o See your GP urgently (the same day) or contact NHS 111

o If you cannot see your GP, go to your local A&E department

• If you think there is imminent danger (e.g. that your partner may hurt herself) call 999 and ask for an ambulance

Getting help for you

• Talk with your wife/partner’s medical team

• See your own GP

• Confide in a trusted family member or friend

• Speak to APP, see below and our website, for all our possible support options too

What’s the outlook for a family that has experienced PP?

Extremely good, with the right treatment the majority of women go on to make a full recovery and return to their normal selves, embracing motherhood and enjoying family life. While recovery can often be a long journey, there is hope and all of our storytellers and volunteers at APP, both women and their partners, are proof that people can and do recover.

Support at APP

We know that partners contact us at many different stages throughout their journey – whether in the early days of the crisis, partway through the journey or, in some instances, even years later.

APP are here to support you along the journey, no matter when you feel you need it. Our website has lots of information, guides and links to getting help:

Action on Postpartum Psychosis | National charity supporting women and families

• 1:1 chat support via email, call or video

• Resources for Partners - https://www.app-network.org/partners

• PP Insider Guides – includes a partner guide - https://www.app-network.org/what-is-pp/app-guides

• APP Partners Group on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/APPpartnersgroup

• Partner virtual café

Please do get in touch if we can help you, see our website or email app@app-network.org

More on Action for Postpartum Psychosis

APP is the leading charity supporting women, partners and families affected by PP. It’s a collaborative project run by people who have lived experience of PP, specialist health professionals and academic experts from Birmingham & Cardiff universities; our aims include:

• To provide up to date information to women and their families who have experienced PP

• To facilitate a peer support network for women and their families

• To increase awareness of PP, its symptoms, management and impact among health professionals and the general public

• To facilitate research into all aspects of PP

• To advocate for improved services for women and their families

New play shines humorous light into the darkest corners of motherhood

 

after birth, written by Zena Forster and directed by Grace Duggan, is a new comedy deeply rooted in the real life testimonies of women who have experienced postpartum psychosis, including many women within the APP network.

The play is being brought to life by Maiden Moor Productions and will open on Monday 10 June at the North Wall Arts Centre in Oxford. Imaginatively staged, with elements of stand-up and a dynamic original sound score, after birth takes us on a journey of recovery.

The story revolves around holiday camp entertainer Ann, who, alongside the Virgin Mary, has been detained without trial on a medieval plague island in the middle of the Venetian Lagoon.  Buffoonish and malevolent by turns, their doctors are intent on curing them of their heinous crime - Being A Bad Mum.   This is the world of Ann’s mind.  after birth’s protagonist is experiencing postpartum psychosis after the birth of her baby.

The lead character’s experiences might be extreme, but they are recognisable and relatable: what mother hasn’t felt judged, or been demoralised by the myth of the perfect mum?

Playwright Zena Forster said; “Just as the women I interviewed didn’t want to be defined by their illness, after birth isn’t a play about psychosis, it’s a play about a tough, witty woman who happens to have psychosis.  The women I interviewed were amazing – courageous, inspirational and often very funny, it was natural that my protagonist was like that too.”

Grace Duggan, Director said, “Zena has created this incredibly detailed and responsive play about the realities of postpartum psychosis.  after birth doesn’t hold its tongue, it doesn’t shield us from the truth, and it doesn’t stop us from awkwardly laughing with a psychotic mother. We want people to start talking about postpartum psychosis and continue the discussion about the pressure of motherhood. Through our characters and with this story we hope to expose it all and have a laugh along the way.”

after birth grew out of collaboration between Zena Forster and researchers at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), Oxford University. For 40 years the NPEU has been the ‘go to’ international centre of research into women’s physical and mental health.  Their annual reports have consistently shown that in the UK suicide stubbornly remains the leading direct cause of maternal death between six weeks and one year after birth, with women from ethnically diverse communities disproportionately affected. The NPEU were keen to find new ways of disseminating their findings with a view to effecting change.

Zena interviewed many women with lived experience of postpartum psychosis, travelling miles around the country to do so. Both Zena and director Grace Duggan dramaturged the piece extensively, developing it significantly for performance in 2021. after birth was awarded the Propeller 2020 opportunity by North Wall, Oxford which includes three performance dates 10, 11, 12 June 2021. A film of the staged performance is also being made and the NPEU are undertaking further research of how this filmed performance could be used in both therapeutic settings and in health professional education.

The time has never been riper for a recovery story. after birth is an opposite celebration of resilience in the face of inequality and adversity. There is a growing need and appetite for work that explores the disadvantages that women face in our unequal, patriarchal society.  Between eight and nine out of ten women in the UK will become mothers. The pandemic has exposed and heightened the inequalities they face.  More and more evidence is emerging that maternal mental health has suffered over the last year, with black and brown mums disproportionately affected. after birth creates a timely space for us to talk about these pressing issues.

As an international centre for research into women’s health and as a vibrant creative hub, Oxford was the perfect place for this play to be developed. Oxford’s North Wall has long been committed to nurturing creative talent – Alice Vilanculo (actor), Will Alder (sound design), Grace Duggan (director) all received early career support through the theatre’s various development programmes and are delighted to be back in Oxford as established artists.  Likewise, Oxfordshire Theatre Makers (OTM) and Arts at the Old Fire Station provided backing and opportunities to develop and promote the play.  Oxford’s supportive city council provided important early seed funding.  Oxford colleges have helped with funding too. after birth’s playwright Zena Forster is based in Oxford, as is Bafta award winning film maker Jo Eliot who will be filming the performance.

Commenting on  after birth, Professor  Rachel Rowe, Senior Health Services Researcher, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit said “through after birth we hope to engage audiences with research evidence about maternal mental health, to raise awareness, reduce stigma, encourage discussion and ultimately improve care and outcomes for women affected by postnatal mental illness. The play promotes some key public health messages about postnatal mental health, but importantly it’s also funny and full of hope – it should be a really good night out.”

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