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Peer support service launches in Morpeth for mothers experiencing postpartum psychosis

A partnership between Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) is creating an invaluable peer support service for women experiencing severe mental illness following the birth of their child.

The Beadnell Mother and Baby Unit in Morpeth, which is run by CNTW, has contracted APP to deliver this much-needed support. APP is currently recruiting for someone who has experienced postpartum psychosis to join the team as a part time Peer Support Worker.

The Mother and Baby Unit exists to support women experiencing severe mental illness in pregnancy and following birth, with specialist support available to treat conditions such as severe postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis. The Unit also provides specialist mother and baby classes, activities such as parent and child swimming and baby massage classes, and overnight facilities for partners – with the core aim of keeping families together to support a faster recovery and better quality of life.

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.

Allison Spiers, Ward Manager at the Beadnell Mother and Baby Unit, said: “We work very closely with APP to support mothers who are experiencing postpartum psychosis, and we are really pleased to be growing that relationship by welcoming a new Peer Supporter employed by APP into our team.  Not only will they offer vital one-on-one support to new mothers at a very distressing time in their lives, this Peer Supporter will also support group work with the women on our unit, and provide training to ensure our whole team continue to develop an in-depth understanding of postpartum psychosis. At CNTW we believe that service users and carers with lived experience of mental ill-health should be at the heart of everything we do, and employing Peer Support staff is an integral part of this.”

Dr Jess Heron, CEO, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, said: “We know that CNTW are already big believers in the value of peer support and lived experience engagement. The service that they provide to new mothers and families at the Mother and Baby Unit is outstanding, and, by combining this with the new peer support role women will receive a truly holistic and specialist treatment. Being able to support women and families at this critical stage, as they go through this frightening experience and begin to recover, is key to reducing the trauma, giving hope, and helping women and families feel less alone as they navigate the recovery process.

“This vital service will benefit women affected by postpartum psychosis and their families across the wider North East region. As a national charity we are campaigning to see more Mother and Baby Units like this one open up around the UK, to help save lives, promote recovery and to keep families together.”

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 CNTW on this project and I’m looking forward to starting to build our volunteer team and 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, click here

 

Links and More Information

For a list of England’s community teams go to: https://nhswebbeds.co.uk/community-team/list

For a list of Mother & Baby Units go to: https://nhswebbeds.co.uk

APP offer support for those affected by postpartum psychosis (personally, or at risk of PP, due to bipolar disorder. For telephone, email or Facebook support for postnatal depression and anxiety, see: https://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/

For general advice about managing mental health, isolation and anxiety visit:

For advice specific to perinatal mental health during Coronavirus visit:

For more advice about Coronavirus:

 

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During Recovery from PP

You can find APP’s resources on recovery here.

1. How will I get medication? How will I be monitored and supported during recovery?

Urgent home visits will continue. Some routine appointments will happen via video call.

2. How can I manage my anxiety, depression, isolation during recovery while we are socially distancing?

UK wide, online resources and peer support will be incredibly important for recovering women. There is already a wide range of online resources and more are being produced each day. The links below contains further resources, recommended reading, recovery modules, and support.

APP provide support, information and a lived experience community for women & families recovering from PP. You can talk to others on our forum or get in touch to talk to a trained peer supporter via text or email. We have a variety of Facebook groups you can join and zoom activities you can get involved in.

NHS mental health services are open & here for you during this time. Contact them if you need extra help.

3. Social distancing and isolation mean my usual family support, and especially grandparents, are not available. Where can we find help?

NHS services will continue to provide outreach support during recovery via telephone, video and face to face as needed. Do ask for support if you need it.

The support that friends and family are able to provide will depend on your own situation and theirs. As someone recovering from a severe mental illness, a ‘carer’ in a non-vulnerable group can visit to provide support. Please check up-to-date guidelines here.

APP will continue our national peer support services throughout the outbreak. Our Forum is available for you to talk to other women and partners: www.app-network.org/peer-support/

We offer one to one peer support for anyone in the UK, where you are paired with an APP coordinator with lived experience, or a volunteer peer supporter. We can give this one to one peer support via messaging, email, or video call. APP also have trained partner and grandparent peer supporters. If you would like to access this support or join our lived experience community, email us here. We have a variety of Facebook groups and social media activities you can get involved in.

Resources for partners are available here, and you can join our partner’s Facebook page for more information, signposting and support.

 

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In Crisis or Developing Symptoms of PP

You can find APP’s general resources about symptoms of postpartum psychosis here and getting help here. You can find more information on common early symptoms here. You can find APP information guides about PP for women and partners here. If you are a partner, you can also join our Partner’s Facebook group for information, signposting and support from other partners who have ‘been there’.

1. If I develop symptoms of PP, how will assessment happen?

  • If you believe you are developing symptoms of postpartum psychosis (or your partner, family members is) you need to act urgently via the normal routes: telephone your GP, maternity services, or 111. If you believe you or someone in your household is in imminent danger, call 999. Services are still here for you. Urgent home visits are still being completed, but may also include phone & video call contact.
  • Every acute mental health trust in England has a 24/7 crisis line number who can direct you to appropriate services. You can find your local one here – input your postcode in the helplines section.
  • In Scotland, A&E mental health presentations are being diverted directly to mental health sites. Crisis/Out of Hours staff will work in assessment centres with extra resources, seeing people from A&E and other urgent referrals.

2. Are Mother & Baby Units staying open?

  • In England and Scotland MBUs will remain open and are doing an enormous amount of work to minimise any risk of infection on inpatient units. There are no units in Wales; women requiring MBU admission will be offered the opportunity of a bed in England. In Northern Ireland, postnatal women with PP are admitted to General Adult Psychiatric Units for care.

3. How are MBU’s managing coronavirus?

  • MBUs are following general NHS inpatient guidance on barrier nursing and staff will be using personal protection equipment (PPE) for patients with coronavirus symptoms. MBUs have set up isolation areas to care for women separately. To date there have been very few cases of coronavirus in MBUs.
  • Visitor advice varies between units. Some units have restricted visits to one named family member per patient, with specific time slots. Please contact the MBU for more specific advice. For a full list of MBUs in England click here  or here for all UK units.
  • NHS England guidance on visiting during the coronavirus crisis can be found here, and, for Scotland, here.
  • Patients will be supported to use FaceTime and telephone video calling more. Peer Support, including that delivered by APP, will be available via video call, and in some areas, peer supporters are still visiting the unit.

 

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Pregnant Women Concerned about PP

(i.e. those who have had a previous PP or who have a bipolar diagnosis):

You can find APP’s insider guide: ‘Planning pregnancy: a guide for women at high risk of Postpartum Psychosis’ here & APP’s resources on bipolar disorder and pregnancy here. You can take part in a trial of a new interactive workbook to support women through pregnancy by emailing us here.

1. What will happen to my antenatal psychiatric appointments or preconception advice appointments?

  • In England, Scotland & Wales, there are plans in place for routine home visits and out-patient appointments to continue, but some appointments will be done by telephone or video call. We will add information from Northern Ireland when we have it.
  • Perinatal Psychiatrists say that birth planning for women at high risk of PP will in some cases be offered remotely but will still be thorough and comprehensive.

2. How do I get medication during this crisis?

  • In England, Scotland and Wales, medication plans for pregnancy and the postnatal period should be made with perinatal psychiatrists in advance to ensure there is plenty of time to get prescriptions filled. Talk to your GP, Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team, or Perinatal Psychiatrist, to ensure plans are in place.
  • Women who are remaining on Lithium throughout pregnancy will continue to need the same degree of medical vigilance. Antenatal care is still “open for business” and obstetrics/ maternity and perinatal mental health will work collaboratively to ensure the safest possible antenatal care remains uninterrupted.
  • In Scotland, medication prescribing remains with GPs on recommendation of mental health services. We will add information from Northern Ireland when we have it.
  • You can phone your GP prescriptions line / psychiatric services and they can send prescriptions directly to your local pharmacy for collection. Some pharmacies are operating a delivery service for those who are shielding or self isolating.

3. What impact does Covid-19 have on pregnancy, foetal development or risk of postnatal illness?

  • Our best knowledge to date is that Covid-19 doesn’t seem to cause problems with pregnancy, and it is believed that having CV-19 is unlikely to impact on your baby’s development. Most pregnant women who develop the illness will experience mild or moderate cold or flu-like symptoms. Pregnant women with other health conditions (e.g heart disease, or if you usually are advised to have a flu jab) should be extra cautious as they may be more unwell than other women. It may be possible for you to pass coronavirus to your baby before they are born. But when this has happened, the babies have got better. There’s no evidence coronavirus causes miscarriage or affects how your baby develops in pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women have been placed in the ‘moderate risk group’ as a precautionary measure as not enough is yet known about the virus. This means you should follow guidance on hand-washing and social distancing. You can access up to date government guidance here.
  • You should still attend appointments and scans, unless advised not to.
  • You should still seek help if you are worried about your physical or mental health.
  • Maintaining contact with friends and family, and being active, can be very important to maintaining good mental health during pregnancy, so consider how to stay connected, and what you can do, within government guidelines.
  • The Royal College of Midwives and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have produced some excellent guidance for health professionals and women, which is being regularly updated here and here. You can access the Royal College of Psychiatrists advice here.
  • We do not yet know whether stresses related to the crisis will impact on women’s chance of developing maternal mental illness. We know that managing anxiety and stress in pregnancy and the postnatal period is important. You can find excellent advice from Mind about managing anxiety and isolation here and from the Mental Health Foundation here.

APP are here for you. If you are a pregnant women with previous experience of PP or bipolar, you can talk to an APP peer supporter by visiting our forum or registering for email or video support here. APP also has a number of Facebook groups (e.g. a book club, an activities & wellbeing group, various volunteer groups) you can join.

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