Tag Archives: MBUs

Chris's awareness raising football tour continues...

Last year, dad and APP volunteer, Chris Wasley decided to take on an epic tour of football grounds around the UK, aiming to raise awareness of postpartum psychosis and APP.

You can read more about his grand plans and the first few stops on his tour here.

The first point of call for Chris in 2024 was Stoke City FC on 20th January.  Here he reports back on his latest match:

'I went to see Stoke City unfortunately lose 2-1 to Birmingham City.  It wasn't the result Stoke's performance deserved, they played some really lovely football but just couldn't score the goals! But the result maintains Birmingham's unbeaten run under their new manager.
This was another significant ground to visit for my challenge. My wife and I actually met whilst studying at Staffordshire University several years ago and have been together ever since!  And my good friend Ed, who I also met at University and is godfather to my son Dean, still lives locally. 

Stoke City FC is only 17 miles from the Stafford MBU. Ed and some of his very welcoming friends and family came with us to the game. Shout out to the Cheeseboarders!

 

I have to say amazing thanks to Stoke City and Head of Supporter Experience, Anthony.

 

Anthony was really interested to hear of our story and experience of postpartum psychosis, and to help me in raising awareness, arranged for us to have photographs on the pitch which will be used in a subsequent matchday programme! What an experience!

 

Being a weekend I wasn't able to visit the staff at the Staffordshire MBU, but I did have a lovely phone call with them to thank them for all the wonderful work they do.

 

Up next is Newcastle United in March... I really hope I am not a curse for the home teams on this challenge!'

Photo of the match day programme article about Chris's tour

Here's the fantastic piece featuring Chris in Stoke City's matchday programme.
We can't wait to hear about your next match!

If you're a dad or co-parent that would like to meet and talk with others whose partners have experienced PP, join our virtual Dads and Co-parents peer support social / cafe group - 8-9pm, every 3rd Wednesday of the month.
Zoom joining link: bit.ly/PARTNERMEET. Or, email Simon: simon@app-network.org

Francoise’s story: It was 24 years before I spoke to someone else who experienced PP – it’s never too late to access peer support

It took me 24 years to access peer support through APP after my experience of postpartum psychosis (PP) in 1998, but it has completely changed my life. I went from being a survivor to actually living my life, and the self-stigma I used to feel has diminished dramatically. 

We had no idea what postpartum psychosis was.

I had never heard of PP when I was diagnosed with it after giving birth to my first child. While I’d had a fairly difficult birth, my pregnancy was fairly easy, and I had lots of support from my husband and family. In retrospect, however, my elation and need for perfection after the birth was a definite warning sign.

I wasn’t sleeping much but I figured that was normal for a new mum. One night, however, I had this terrible feeling – like I was being struck by lightning. It was like some kind of out of body experience and I became obsessed by the idea that my daughter was the second coming of Christ. I spoke to my husband and my mum and they both knew something was very wrong.

Sadly, however, even though my husband was calling our GP surgery, nobody spotted the problem. After four different GPs saw me and suggested I simply had baby blues, we eventually saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PP. I was then rushed to hospital by ambulance and spent a night on a mixed ward.

My mother-in-law was also incredibly supportive, and she had trained as a nurse and had worked in midwifery so she knew about Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) and said that I needed to be treated at one. She and my husband pushed for a transfer and I was thankfully given a bed on the MBU in West London.

I was very delusional by this point and I ended up staying there, with my baby daughter Eva, for three months (although during the final month I was able to go home for short periods of time).

It was a really traumatic time. I wasn’t really aware of how unwell I was, and I found it incredibly upsetting that I was unable to breastfeed due to the medication I was on. It felt like a primal wound not to be able to breastfeed when I really wanted to.

My recovery felt quite sudden.

Although it took me a long while to get better, I remember waking up one day and feeling suddenly quite different. I was still incredibly anxious though and felt frightened at being left alone with my baby. And I was feeling very ashamed because I didn’t fully understand PP and knew nobody else who had experienced it.

Looking back, I think I was looking after my baby girl really quite well, but my lack of confidence was so low. It was a different time back then in the 90s, and I had no access to therapy or peer support, so I felt very isolated. However, I carried on, feeling more like a soldier than a mum.

I did access a local mother and baby group and made some good friends there, but I felt so ashamed talking about what I had gone through. The two friends I made through that group were so compassionate though, and my experience of PP didn’t put them off being my friend.

I gave birth to a second child, a boy, and it all went really well. I had been told that I was at risk of another episode of PP after giving birth again, but nobody said there was a risk of a psychotic episode months later. And this is precisely what happened when my little boy was three years old . I was eventually diagnosed with bipolar and experienced a few more episodes and hospital admissions over the years which deeply affected me. I felt as though I had this awful illness that I was stuck with forever, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness.

Thankfully, I haven’t experienced another episode since 2015, but it’s not just the time that has elapsed that has helped me come to terms with my illness. It’s the peer support that I found through APP that has really helped me to feel more hopeful and less alone.

It was 2022 when I found out about APP’s peer support.

I reached out to APP and the first person I spoke to who had experienced PP was Ellie, and it was such a moving moment. After all these years, I’d finally found someone else who had been through what I had.

It was like after all these years, and this long ordeal that felt so hard and endless, I was able to see that there was light at the end of the tunnel. My husband and I also went along to an APP café group and we met all these beautiful people. They were much younger than me and my husband, but we both sat listening to them with tears in our eyes. We had never cried about the experience before. It was like relief. Finally, we could face what had happened and address it in a more open way.

I think in all the years previous to this I had been so determined to get through life that I forgot to address it, to face it head on. Now I am doing it all with my eyes open, with less shame and with so much more support. I always had my husband, my family and the brilliant staff at the MBU. But being with others who have been where you are is so powerful.

My daughter Eva is now 25 and she came along to one of the meetings too. They can help all family members – whether you have experienced PP yourself, your partner has or your daughter or parent has.

Now I feel like I can give something back, I can share my story so that other women going through this  won’t feel as alone as I did.

There’s a dangerous myth about perfection in motherhood – and peer support reminds us that nobody’s perfect and that if we are struck by postnatal mental illness that is no reflection on who we are or how good a mother we are.

The illness is the illness, it is what it is, but the stigma and isolation need to be worked on. I was unlucky to get the illness, but I was lucky to have my husband’s love and the support of others. I feel very lucky and privileged in that sense and I don’t want young women to go through the same isolation that I did for all those years.

But I also think it’s important to mention that it’s never too late to benefit from peer support. Whether you’ve just experienced PP in the last year, or whether it’s something that affected you many years or even decades ago, reaching out and hearing from others is a comforting and life changing experience.

Don’t hesitate to find your community. It really has helped to change my life.

Emily and Adam skydive for APP!

Two wonderful staff members from The Beeches Mother and Baby Unit in Derby are getting 2024 off to a flying start with a skydive on Friday 12th January!
Emily and Adam are bravely taking on this challenge to raise raise awareness of postnatal mental illness.
Adam says: “Ever since graduating as a mental health nurse and beginning my career on The Beeches MBU I’ve been passionate about improving services and support to people going through mental health crises in the postpartum period.
I have seen first hand the impact  that prompt care and support has on recovery rates. Additionally my friend and skydive partner Emily had her own journey with postpartum psychosis and I know how helpful APP and community services were for her.
I’m keen to help in any way that I can; so a sponsored skydive seemed the perfect way to do it! “
Emily herself experienced postnatal mental illness after the birth of her baby in 2020. She has gone on to train to become a support worker, helping other mums who are going through difficult times. She says: “After being a service user myself and working on The Beeches Mother and Baby Unit as a Support Worker, I’ve seen both personally and professionally the impact that care has on recovery. My personal experience has given me this intense drive to make a difference in services as I know first hand how scary the postnatal period can be.”

'Postnatal mental illness is so terrifying and at the time you don’t see any kind of light after dark, everything is just tunnel vision and I’ve never felt sadness and fear like it. The sadness of not wanting to be here and not enjoying this motherhood dream that everyone talks about, not enjoying anything in life, feeling like a burden and like you’re not worthy of being a parent, but honestly, it DOES change.'

You can read more of Emily's beautifully written story about her experiences, and add your support for her and Adam's jump on their GoFundMe page.
Good luck Emily and Adam!

Chris kicks off his awareness raising football tour

This weekend, one of our partner peer support volunteers, Chris Wasley, will be kicking off his latest challenge for APP.  Chris is already a seasoned fundraiser for us, having completed a 10K race and an epic coastal walk.  But this time his focus is on raising awareness more than funds.

Chris is on a mission to attend a match at every football ground closest to each MBU in the UK.

Here he tells us a bit more about what he has planned and why he's doing it.

'In 2019, shortly after the birth of our first child, our son, my amazing wife Natalie experienced postpartum psychosis.

Our journey with postpartum psychosis has lasted years. And I can honestly say that it is the most frightening challenge we are ever likely to face.

Last year in 2022, we welcomed our second child, our daughter, and thankfully we haven’t experienced it again. But postpartum psychosis has always been there impacting our lives.

Postpartum psychosis is a topic very close to us as a family.

And I have made a promise to help raise as much awareness as possible for this mental illness.

I am very proud of my growing relationship with this wonderful charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP).

Currently there are 22 Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in the UK who help to provide specialist inpatient treatment to mothers (and their babies) experiencing a wide range of mental illness.

To those who know me, it is no secret that football is a love and addiction of mine.

So I have decided to embark on a personal challenge that will allow me to fulfil my promise to raise awareness of Postpartum Psychosis and to satisfy my hunger for football!

So over the next few years I will be attending football matches at grounds around and closest to the 22 MBUs in the UK.

To raise awareness at the grounds and amongst the football community I will be wearing a rather beautiful football shirt that I have had designed and made that clearly represents postpartum psychosis, APP and the MBUs.

My first game will be at Southampton FC on 15th September, this is the ground closest to  Winchester MBU, with my dad Gary.

I know this challenge will take some years to complete with the number of grounds there are to visit and having a young family at home (and work I suppose!), but I am really excited for it and all the good I hope it will achieve.'

Chris is aiming to pop into each MBU on his journey too, to thank the dedicated staff for the amazing work they do. He knows that this is a long term adventure - Chris thinks towards the end, his son might even be old enough to come along with him to some of the games.

*** UPDATE***

Chris had a fantastic time at the match, and managed to get an entry about his challenge included in the match day programme - such a great way to raise awareness of PP.

He says:

'Southampton lost 4-1 at home to Leicester City. It certainly wasn't the result the home support hoped for but it was a good game for the neutral and good to see 5 goals! 

My dad Gary enjoyed the game with me so that was great!

Southampton FC put a lovely entry in their match day programme about me and my experience, which was actually much more detailed and longer than we had agreed which was very kind of them as I know they get lots of requests and have limited space. 
I have been speaking with the Winchester MBU and am in the process of arranging a date to see them. I was just planning on saying hello and thankyou but they want me to have a talk about my experience!'
Here's a few pictures Chris shared with us - his APP football shirt is looking good!
Chris and his dad Gary inside the stadium Chris wearing his purple APP football shirt standing outside Southampton Football Club stadium

And here's his entry in the programme:

An image of the inside of the match day programme featuring Chris in his purple APP football shirt

Chris's next match will be in Accrington later this month, and he is already making connections with dads and football fans across the country who are keen to join him on his challenge.

Thank you Chris for all you're doing to raise awareness!

*** UPDATE 23.10.23 ***

Chris is back from the second fixture of his fantastic awareness raising tour - this weekend he was at Accrington Stanley:

"On Saturday 21st October I attended my second match of my football awareness tour! I went to see Accrington Stanley beat MK Dons one - nil in a narrow win to move Accrington into the League Two play-off spots. 
This was a very significant ground to visit for my challenge. Accrington is my wife's home town and most of her family still live in the area. Chorley Ribblemere is the closest MBU only 20 miles away.  I was certainly not short of company and support for this fixture! With my father-in-law Nigel, my wife's uncles Dave, Sean and Ged, and our friend Pat all coming to the game with me! 
Unfortunately despite our best efforts we couldn't get an entry in the matchday programme, but I have to say my APP/MBU football shirt got a lot of attention! I spoke to several fans and club associates supporting both Accrington and MK about our experience and the wonderful work of APP and the MBUs."
Chris also shared some more wonderful photos of his trip up north!
A group of six men with Chris at the centre, standing in front of a stadium at Accrington Stanley FC Chris looking out over the pitch at Accrington Stanley FC, wearing his purple APP shirt with MBU on the back
Chris's next stop will be a match at Stoke City FC on 20th January - keep an eye out for updates on here!

***

If you're a dad or co-parent that would like to meet and talk with others whose partners have experienced PP, join our virtual Dads and Co-parents peer support social / cafe group - 8-9pm, every 3rd Wednesday of the month.
Zoom joining link: bit.ly/PARTNERMEET. Or, email Simon: simon@app-network.org

A day in the life of…a Peer Support Facilitator: Natalie

Natalie Thompson has worked with APP since 2019 and is based in our Birmingham and Solihull peer support teams. 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.

08:45

I always start the day with a cup of tea to wake me up. Steaming hot brew at the ready, I’ll check my emails to see if there’s anything urgent I need to respond to and contact any women I am due to see that day to make sure meeting is still convenient for them.

09:00

I’ll make my way over to a local children's centre where I support with NHS Perinatal groups such as Play and Stay and Baby Massage. Sometimes I help facilitate other interventions such as Tree of Life and Five to Thrive.

It's good to have a Peer in the groups to be able to support the mums as someone who’s walked in similar shoes.  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).

12:00

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 and another cup of tea!

13:00

After lunch, I might attend an MDT meeting - multi disciplinary team meeting. 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.

14:00

Next I’ll make sure I get moving and get some fresh air by doing a social walk with one of the women on my caseload who is recovering from PP. These ‘walk and talk’ peer support meetings are great – 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.  From these meet ups I’ll write up my notes to make sure I am able to reflect on any areas I need to follow up on.

15:00

I will make time to contact women on my caseload to see if they want to talk through anything over the phone or indeed want to meet up in the coming weeks.

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.  I’ll check out the venue, make sure they have good facilities and open space for little ones, etc. Then, I’ll email participants a little reminder of where café groups take place, and 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.

Samantha’s story: I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder after PP - but it’s not the life sentence I thought it was going to be

I’d never experienced any real mental health problems prior to being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis. However, six years later, following another psychotic episode, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and told I’d need medication for life. But after learning how to better manage my health and wellbeing, I’ve been symptom-free for over seven years. Now, I want to inspire others by showing that, despite your diagnosis, you can go on to live a healthy and happy life.

In 2005 I gave birth for the first time. I had quite a large baby - he was nearly 10 pounds and, following a forceps delivery, I lost a lot of blood. It was a terrifying time, I had to have a blood transfusion, I hadn’t slept for three days straight before the birth and I really believed I was going to die.

Looking back, it definitely felt as though this trauma marked the beginning of my mental health problems.

After the blood transfusion I could feel that something wasn’t right. I even joked that they’d ‘given me the blood of a mad man’. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist at this point but I denied that there was anything wrong with me and they let me go home with my baby.

After getting home my family became really concerned. I trashed the house and experienced visions, so they got the mental health team involved and I ended up being sectioned.

My memories of that time are still quite hazy and I feel I have blocked a lot of it out as a protection mechanism, but some of the visions I experienced are still very vivid. I am certain I was never suicidal and I didn’t have any worrying thoughts about my baby, but things definitely weren’t right with me.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) nearby and my then husband had to make a decision for me to go into a general psychiatric ward, as I wasn’t able to articulate myself how I wanted to be treated.

My experience on the mixed ward was not a good one, and there were some awful incidents that traumatised me. I wasn’t sleeping and was continually walking around the wards apparently putting myself at risk amongst some of the unwell male patients. I remember being restrained and put in seclusion on more than one occasion. I also felt uncomfortable when there were usually just male members of staff on duty especially at night. I had already had a traumatic time giving birth and all of this just added to the distress. This would not have happened had I been sent to where I should have been – an MBU. I ended up staying on the general ward for 28 long days.

I was told that there was a 50% chance of me getting PP again if I had another baby. However, 19 months later, having given birth to my daughter, I felt more prepared.

I had a planned c-section, knew what to look out for and felt more supported. I had a mental health team keep an eye on me throughout the process but refused any type of medication. Thankfully, I didn’t experience PP following my daughter’s birth.

However, after being well for six years, I experienced a psychotic episode, which I believe was linked to the trauma and I ended up back in the psychiatric unit for 28 days again. This was in 2011 and between then and 2016 I ended up being sectioned four more times for subsequent episodes.

I was initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and then told it was actually schizoaffective disorder which was a real shock as there is so much stigma attached to the label. My family were told that my condition was so severe I would need medication for life, which really affected me as I had always preferred a holistic approach, so I kept stopping the medication they supplied me with. Because of this they were unable to trust me and had to give me monthly injections which I also found traumatic.

My last episode was in 2016 due to a lot of stress in my life within a short period and I was hospitalised for three months. During that time my mind and body totally shut down and I couldn’t communicate with anyone. Luckily, this time, I was in a women only ward.

After this last event I was referred to an extremely good NHS psychiatrist who did not believe that everyone with this condition needed to be on medication for life. He worked with me over a long period of time and carefully weaned me off my medication so that by 2019 I was medication free. It was at this time I decided to work on healing myself and dealing with past traumas through reiki and other holistic therapies.

My experiences inspired me to want to give something back to others, and I now work full time supporting adults with learning difficulties.

Another big achievement was buying my own house in 2020 – something I never believed would be possible.

There’s a lot more to my story but for the last seven years things have been great. I have had my ups and downs like everyone else - especially during Covid and working in a care home. I have dealt with a lot during this time but have managed to stay well. I really want to express that a psychiatric diagnosis doesn’t mean you are written off and it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. I am now leading a normal and happy life and in some ways, I wouldn’t change a thing as it’s made me the strong woman I am today.

Read APP's July 2023 newsletter

Health professional training

New dates announced! Book on to APP’s health professionals training in postpartum psychosis (PP) and stay up to date with best practice care.

Supporting dads and co-parents affected by postpartum psychosis
This half day online workshop, led by Dr Sally Wilson and APP Partners Coordinator Simon O’Mara, is informed by real life experiences of dads and co-parents whose partners have experienced postpartum psychosis. At the end of the workshop: you will have an up-to-date knowledge of the research into the impact of PP on partners; understand the needs of dads and co-parents; and have learned about strategies and interventions to improve support.
Friday 14th July / Zoom
10am - 12.30pm BST
£99
Find out more & book: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/app-training-supporting-dads-and-coparents-tickets-648045761317

Best practice care in postpartum psychosis
This one-day online course draws upon cutting-edge research in postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder and is informed by the experiences of women and families. The course will develop knowledge, understanding, and confidence in managing this severe form of postnatal mental illness.
Wednesday 15th November / Zoom
Full day training
Early bird (to 31st July) £165, full price £195
Find out more & book: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/app-training-managing-postpartum-psychosis-for-health-professionals-tickets-496307337607

Essential knowledge for preventing maternal suicide
The Alex Baish Memorial Lecture: a free webinar for GPs, midwives, antenatal educators and frontline health professionals
Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in the UK and rates are increasing nationally. This free lunchtime webinar aimed at frontline health professionals will outline the actions needed to support and protect women who develop the condition. The webinar will include a Q&A session with APP’s clinical, academic and lived experience experts.
Wednesday 18th October / Zoom
12pm – 1.30pm BST
Free
Register your interest at: training@app-network.org

Supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic families affected by postpartum psychosis
This new online session led by APP’s National Training Coordinator, Dr Sally Wilson, and APP’s Diverse Communities Outreach Team, will focus on supporting women and families from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities who develop postpartum psychosis. By the end of the session, you will have knowledge of the support and information needs of women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities; and have considered strategies to remove barriers and improve care.
Thursday 16th November / Zoom
12pm – 2.30pm BST
£99
Find out more & book: www.eventbrite.com/e/supporting-black-asian-and-ethnic-minority-families-affected-by-pp-tickets-671354869487

Northern Ireland campaigning update

In Northern Ireland we’re waiting for news of the next step for a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). We campaigned hard last year for public, professional and government support for the unit. The government strategic review due in the spring has been delayed until summer and we’ve heard that’s because all five Health Trusts were keen for it to be in their area.

With no Government in Northern Ireland, and no Health Minister, even when a Trust is chosen to develop a business case, nothing can be done. But we’re not going to let an MBU fall off the agenda.

We’ve got plans to lobby when politicians are back from their summer break, and we’re staying in touch with journalists who have reported on this before.

We’ve got three questions we need answered:

  • What’s the timeline for building and opening an MBU?
  • What’s the budget and where will the money come from?
  • What is going to be done for mums who need admission in the meantime?

To really make our case, we need support from women in Northern Ireland who’ve experienced postpartum psychosis. We know it’s much harder to ignore people who have real stories to tell, so we’re reaching out to anyone who is prepared to talk to media - even anonymously - or to talk to an MLA about their experience.

Please also get in touch if you used to live in Northern Ireland and had access to an MBU elsewhere in the UK that you wouldn’t have had at home - we’d love you to share your story. APP volunteer, Tara, recently shared her experience of postpartum psychosis (PP) in this podcast.

We’ll support you through the process. Even if you don’t feel certain about talking, you can give us a call to discuss it. Get in touch with Ellie here.

It’s just not fair that women have to leave Northern Ireland to get the help that’s available in all other parts of the UK, and we’re determined to change that.

#MumBabyTogetherNI

We are recruiting

APP is recruiting casual Peer Support Worker(s) to join our innovative collaborative project with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust providing peer support to inpatients at Birmingham Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).

We’re looking for people with lived experience of postpartum psychosis to help support women, one-to-one and through small group activities, at the MBU. Peer Support Workers also spend time talking to partners and families of women during the acute illness phase, sharing information, giving hope and signposting to APP’s online support, community forum, and information. Part of the role will be spent helping to run monthly café groups in the Birmingham area and - working in collaboration with Black Country Healthcare Foundation Trust - at various locations around that region. You don’t need to have experience of peer supporting. Training will be provided.

Full details of how to apply for the role are on our website. The application deadline is midnight on 21st August 2023.

Scotland Mother and Baby Unit petition


We know that some mums in Scotland who suffer from postpartum psychosis are treated in general psychiatric wards away from their baby and family.

There are currently only two specialist Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in Scotland based in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

APP believes every family affected by PP should have access to specialist care. MBU beds accessible to women in the North of Scotland are vital.

You can help us by adding your name to this petition, developed by Lesley, one of our Scotland volunteers, which is currently under consideration by the Scottish Government. Adding your name will help the Scottish government understand how strongly we feel about access to specialist care – and keeping mums and babies together: https://petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE2017

#KeepMumsAndBabiesTogether

Celebrating Perinatal event

On 24th May, APP attended the "Celebrating Perinatal" event, organised by Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust and North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.  It was a wonderful occasion to celebrate all the work done in the region over recent years, and to look back to the start of services in the North Staffs area in the 1980s.

APP’s Hannah Bissett, National NHS Contracts Coordinator, Jo Derry, Black Country Peer Support Facilitator, and Jenny Stevenson, National Online Peer Support Coordinator joined Dr Giles Berrisford, APP's Chair of Trustees, who gave a national update on the progress of perinatal services as Specialty Advisor PMH for NHS England. Hannah is pictured above with Harriet Lambah-Heap (ward manager at Brockington Parent & Baby Unit).

Color Obstacle Rush

On Saturday, June 17th, a group of 12 APP staff and families (pictured above) from the north west took part in the Color Rush at Manchester. It was such a fun event consisting of lots of coloured powder, foam, giant inflatable obstacles and maybe some running.
As a group, they managed to raise £1,086. There is still a chance to donate here.
We are thinking of doing this again next year and there are various locations all over the world! So please get in touch with fundraising@app-network.org if you’d be interested.

Professor Louise Howard, OBE

Congratulations to Professor Louise Howard who was awarded an OBE in the first King’s Birthday Honours last month for services to women's mental health.

Louise is Professor Emerita in Women’s Mental Health at King’s College London. Her research programmes aim to improve mental health service policy and practice for women. She led research that informed the updated NICE guideline on how to identify and treat perinatal mental illness and her work has also informed pregnancy planning tools commissioned by NHS England and Public Health England.

Fabulous fundraisers

Our amazing supporter Lee Smith is continuing his epic 12 month, 12 challenge fundraiser. He’s already taken part in several running events, including a back-to-back Total Warrior event followed by the Great Run 10k, he’s also climbed Scarfell Pike, run 5k a day for a month and just last month, he and his wife Jess climbed Ben Nevis.  To mark their joint achievement, their daughter made them this beautiful book as a present – she’s so proud of them and we are too. Add your support to Lee’s incredible campaign here.

Ultra Event!

We have our first APP ultra runner in action this weekend! Michael Henderson-Sowersby is taking on the mammoth 100km ‘Race to the Stones’ on 8th July, raising money for APP in memory of his school friend Alex Baish, and for another charity close to his heart - Devizes & District Opportunity Centre.  Find out more about his epic training efforts and add your support here. Good luck, Michael!

Miles for Mums and Babies

Another huge thank you to everyone who took part in our Miles for Mums and Babies challenge this year – donations are still coming in and challenges are still underway, but already our amazing fundraisers and their supporters have raised more than £20,000! This will have such an incredible impact on the work we can do supporting mums and families. Thank you so much. You can read more about our Miles for Mums and Babies adventures here.

Looking for your next challenge?

There are dozens of running events going on this October all over the country – half marathons in cities including Oxford, Glasgow, Manchester, Portsmouth and London (including the beautiful Royal Parks Half); full marathons in Chester and York, 10 milers in Leicester and Yorkshire, 10kms in Guildford, Tatton and Glasgow, and inflatable 5k fun runs in Huntingdon and Warwickshire – wherever you are and whatever level of challenge you’re looking for – we’ll find the event for you! For most events, there’s a small registration fee of just £25 and a minimum fundraising target that ranges from £100-350 depending on the race. There's still plenty of time to get your training in before October. Tempted? Email fundraising@app-network.org and we’ll sort you out with a free APP running vest and lots of support and encouragement!

Suncatchers

We’re very excited to have been donated more beautiful suncatchers, all handmade with love and care by our wonderful APP supporter, Peter the Glass.  Numbers are very limited so if you’d like one, get your order in quickly. More info here.

Research

You can help improve care for the future by supporting research into PP. Please join our lived experience network, and then contact the researchers for information on each study.

Exploring Black mothers’ experiences of postpartum psychosis and the role of racism
APP is supporting Emily Monger, a Trainee Clinical Psychologist at the University of Essex, who is exploring the experiences of postpartum psychosis for Black mothers, and how the role of racism and/or discrimination may have impacted women’s recovery for women. She is looking for women in the UK, aged 18+ who identify as being from a Black background and who have experience of PP to take part in her study. To find out more email em21633@essex.ac.uk.

The causes and triggers of postpartum psychosis
The National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH) and Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) are working together to understand more about the genetic factors, and other causes and triggers of severe mental illness during pregnancy and following childbirth.

You are invited to take part in this research if you have experienced postpartum psychosis or other severe mental illness around childbirth. For more information and to sign up to participate, please visit this page.

Enhancing recovery from postpartum psychosis
A research team at the University of East Anglia, led by Dr Jo Hodgekins, would like to talk to partners of women who have experienced PP. The research team is interested in learning more about what ‘recovery’ means to people with lived experience of psychosis and their families and the kinds of issues people would like additional support with, and what this support might look like. For more information, email j.hodgekins@uea.ac.uk.

The role of sleep in the development of postpartum psychosis
APP is working with researchers at the Institute of Mental Health, Birmingham University, led by Dr Isabel Morales-Munoz, to investigate the role of sleep in postpartum psychosis (PP). If you have experienced PP, you can help by completing questionnaires about sleep patterns. To take part, register with APP’s Lived Experience network, and email: c.a.f.carr@bham.ac.uk.

If you are a researcher and would like us to support your research, please get in touch at an early stage in planning: research@app-network.org.

Dates for your diary

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria virtual café group meet up, Monday 10th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP London virtual café group meet up, Monday 10th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Grandparents virtual café group meet up, Tuesday 11th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Lancaster, Wednesday 12th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Yorkshire virtual café group meet up, Thursday 13th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackpool, Friday 14th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Dads and co-parents virtual café group meet up, Wednesday 19th July: APP regional café groups webpage

Birth Trauma Awareness Week, 16th-22nd July: www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk

APP Wales virtual café group meet up, Thursday 20th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Friday 21st July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Muslim women’s virtual café group meet up, Saturday 22nd July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Black Country face to face café group meet up at Walsall Arboretum, Wednesday 26th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Blackburn, Friday 28th July: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Lancashire and south Cumbria face to face café group meet up in Preston, Saturday 12th August: APP regional café groups webpage

APP Black Country face to face café group meet up at Walsall Arboretum, Wednesday 23rd August: APP regional café groups webpage

Events

Improving Safety in Maternity Services, Thursday 13th July
Online conference focussing on a multidisciplinary approach to improving safety in maternity services following the Ockenden Review. Book tickets here.

Suicide Bereavement: Practical Applications Conference, from Tuesday 5th September
Fourth annual conference organised by Harmless featuring a series of live webinars on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The theme of this year’s event is ‘2 steps forward, 1 step back. Book tickets here.

If you would like to advertise your event here, please get in touch: app@app-network.org.

Mammoth Miles for Mums and Babies efforts this May!

This year we have had more people than ever take part in our Miles for Mums and Babies fundraising challenge. 

Here's just a few pictures to give you an idea of what everyone has been up to, with individuals and teams getting involved all across the UK.

Thank you to absolutely everyone who has taken part, provided moral or physical support or donated to keep our fundraisers going - it's been an incredible effort, and it's still ongoing!

Becky took on an epic 42 mile walk - find out more and check out the fab pics here.

Justine and a huge team of friends climbed Cavehill on a beautiful sunny day near Belfast.

Kayleigh and her husband Dave are walking 56 miles over 5 days - 56 miles was the distance Dave had to travel to visit Kayleigh when she was in an MBU.

A huge team from Nottingham's Margaret Oates' MBU completed 318 miles - and some dedicated team members didn't even stop when they were on holiday! The whole team completed the miles with a fabulous family walk. Find out more about what they've been up to and add your support here.

Some of our tiniest fundraisers got involved through Jenny Wren’s Rattle & Rhyme group who completed a wonderful five mile buggy push and toddle.

Emma took part in a 10k race on a sunny Wednesday evening in Northamptonshire.

The fantastic nationwide BleepKind team smashed their original 318 mile target, completing over 400 miles in total, and an incredible 92 hours of activity on bikes, on foot and in pools!

Husband and wife team Georgina and Chris are running 108 miles this month, and were even spotted in action at Trentham Gardens by an eagle eyed member of the APP Team!

Natalie is completing 60 miles over the three months, fitting it in around her already very busy life, and loving every step of the way!

Over in Spain, (yes Miles for Mums and Babies is international now!) Ruth had a 10k race planned but when an injury put a stop to her training and running, her amazing friends, Afra and Sinead, stepped in to ensure it didn't put a stop to her fundraising!
Afra completed a 21k race in early May, and Sinead is taking part in the Edinburgh marathon at the end of the month - what fantastic friends!

Hazel cycled amazing 65 miles in just one day from Dundee to Livingston, via Perth.

Hannah and Ryan are walking and running 156 miles throughout May - 120 miles for the distance their family travelled to be with Hannah when she was ill, and 36 miles for each day she was in the Mother and Baby Unit.

The North Wales Perinatal Mental Health Team have completed a MASSIVE 2000 miles between them and are finishing off in style with a team away day walking up Moel Famau meaning Mother Mountain - the highest hill in the Clwydian range in Denbighshire.

We also have a swimmer on board - up in Scotland Alice is planning on completing 71 miles of swimming in a month - 71 miles representing the number of days she spent in hospital while unwell with postpartum psychosis.

Laura D decided to tie her Miles for Mums and Babies challenge in with a Couch to 5K adventure.

Jennifer and Lee walked from their home to Nottingham MBU - a distance of over 20 miles) in one day.

Laura C is running a fantastic 50 miles in the month of May.

Becky is running 5k EVERY DAY in May, often pushing a buggy to make it even more challenging!

Sally is walking a huge 100 miles in May and has smashed her fundraising target!

Shelley and friends completed a 5K in Stormont at the end of the month, not only to raise funds but also to highlight the desperate need for an MBU in Northern Ireland.

10 year old Annie has shown real dedication by running a mile every single day during May, not missing a single one and sometimes even having to get up early to fit her mile in before school!

Some people have even longer term plans - Emily aims to walk an amazing 1000 miles this year - and has already completed nearly half of these miles; and Heidi is aiming for 1400 miles of running this year!

It's been a huge effort this year so far by so many, and we're so grateful to all of you!

Looking ahead, Adeline is running a 10K in Battersea Park at the end of June and Robyn will be paddleboarding in Leamington Spa.

So the month might nearly be over but it’s definitely not too late to get involved – Miles for Mums and Babies can happen whenever and however you want it to! So, if you're feeling inspired and have an idea for your own Miles for Mums and Babies challenge, we’d love to hear from you!

Nicola’s story: "I had to leave my dream job to look after our baby."

My partner, Arina, was only in the MBU for a couple of months when she was discharged. It wasn’t that she was well enough to come home, it was because they said she wasn’t making any progress. Our baby had already been discharged, and I had taken time off work to be a full-time parent. But then when Arina came home as well, I realised that there was no more support available to us and I had to leave my job as an ambulance care assistant – something I had worked so hard for.

It was December when Arina gave birth to our daughter. I hadn’t realised that there was anything wrong at first. Our baby cried a lot, and we were told she had reflux so Arina was naturally anxious and, because I’ve got three older children, I just put it down to it being early days.

Arina had struggled with mental health problems prior to giving birth, and she had been diagnosed with BPD (borderline personality disorder) which is a serious mental health issue that can cause overwhelming, distressing and changeable emotions.

When I was due to return to work after our baby daughter was born, Arina mentioned that she was feeling really anxious. It was New Year’s Day and, because I was expected in work on the 2nd, I contacted Arina’s sister who lived a couple of hours’ drive away to ask if she’d come and stay, which she did. However, she contacted me at work saying she was concerned about Arina who was really struggling and distressed, and she suggested she could take the baby for a couple of nights so that we could get Arina some help.

I reluctantly agreed, and we contacted the crisis team, who came out to see Arina but they weren’t very helpful – simply suggesting that she take a bath, have a cup of tea and get some sleep. But the problem was she couldn’t sleep. And I could see that she was incredibly vulnerable.

We were due a visit from our health visitor so I collected our daughter from Arina’s sister and brought her home. I was at work on the day of the visit, but they called me and said I needed to come home otherwise they would need to remove our daughter. They felt that it was unsafe to leave Arina and the baby alone as they suspected Arina had postpartum psychosis. I went straight home as they tried to find an MBU to get the care Arina clearly needed. However, it was a real struggle because the crisis team maintained that she didn’t need help.

Eventually, we managed to get Arina in to see the GP – she was incredibly anxious by this point. The GP agreed that Arina needed help and, the following day, we finally got the call saying that she could be admitted to the MBU.

Because of Covid, I literally had to drop Arina and my daughter at the MBU door, which was heartbreaking. Leaving your partner and daughter, not knowing how they might settle in or where they were going to sleep, was really difficult. I had also developed a really strong bond with our baby so it was difficult being separated from her as well having previously spent 24 hours a day with her.

The MBU was about a 45 minute drive away from our home as well, so I was having to work full time and travel every day for the one hour a day visit, and it was emotionally and physically draining.

After about a month, I was shocked when the MBU suggested our daughter should come home with me. Arina had mentioned that the MBU staff were still carrying out most of our daughter’s care, and they suggested that Arina needed some time on her own. I was worried because I needed to work to bring the money in, and also because I thought Arina should have the opportunity to bond with our daughter.

I arranged time off work, thinking it was just for a few days but, as time went on, nothing was mentioned about any plans for our daughter to return to the MBU. I was taking her back and forth every day to see Arina and then looking after her the rest of the time on my own.

I had been working with the Ambulance Trust and had only just started the job in the October, so I was devastated at having to take so much time off. Eventually, I was told by the MBU that Arina needed to be referred to an adult psychiatric ward for further treatment but that they couldn’t find a bed, so she would need to come home. We were told at that point that we would get some childcare support to enable me to go back to work part time but nothing materialised.

So, after two months in the MBU, Arina was also home, and I left my job and had to claim benefits to keep us going. Arina applied for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) but that was eight months ago and we still haven’t got it so we are relying on basic benefits – other than £5 a week for baby class. We just feel as though we have been left completely on our own.

It’s quite difficult, as a same sex couple, to access support because everything for partners seemed to be targeted at ‘dads’ or ‘fathers’. I couldn’t see anything that felt it might include me. However, during a conversation with an old friend who I discovered had herself been in an MBU, she told me that she’d seen a story on the APP website about a same-sex couple so I had a look straight away and reached out to Ellie from the peer support team.

Since meeting Ellie, I’ve been put in touch with another female couple and we’ve been in contact regularly, texting back and forth, and it’s been a lifeline. It’s just so good to have someone you can actually relate to.

There are still challenges we are facing because of our situation though. For example, because I’m not on the birth certificate I have to adopt our daughter, so being classed as a full-time parent I currently have the responsibility but not the legal rights, so I can’t even open a bank account for her or register her with a nursery. This is really tough because Arina is still struggling with her mental health as well. And, on the flip side, the social workers have told us that, once I adopt my daughter, they will no longer be able to support us at all – so it feels like a lose-lose situation.

The thing that keeps me going, however, is reading the stories of others, and speaking to Ellie and the couple that APP put me in touch with. While everyone’s experience is different and unique, there is always something you can relate to. It makes such a difference knowing that you’re not alone.

 

Ruth’s story: We had to travel from Spain to Scotland during lockdown to access an MBU

We’d been living in Spain for over ten years when I fell pregnant. My husband, Jamie, worked away a lot on an oil rig but we had a good network, had planned for Jamie to be home for a couple of months around the birth and the pregnancy was really straightforward. I felt lucky.

Our son was born in the September, and, when Jamie returned to work in the December, I made a return trip home to Ireland to visit family with our new baby.

While I was in Belfast I started struggling with bad joint pain. I’d had arthritis as a young child but hadn’t had any problems for years so it was a bit of a shock. I ended up in A&E and it made breastfeeding and holding my son really uncomfortable too. I was in so much agony.

When I got back home I got some treatment for the arthritis and everything seemed to settle back down. My baby was sleeping well, Jamie was working in Norway, everything felt like it was going to be fine.

Then, by the middle of February, I suddenly stopped sleeping and began panicking about everything going wrong – thinking that Jamie, might lose his job, worrying that there was something wrong with our son. I made the rash decision to move our son into his own room, and I would spend whole nights just staring at the baby monitor and listening to the buzz of it.

My mum came to stay and she remembers that I was just pacing the flat saying things like our lives are falling apart; there’s something wrong with the baby; he’s not well; he’ll be taken off us and I’ll be put in jail.

I went to the health centre and got an emergency appt with the nurse who prescribed diazepam to calm me down. It was around the time of lockdown so when I needed to go back it was a different nurse that I saw. The second time I was prescribed antidepressants, too.

Jamie was away at the time and I was continually phoning my best friend and cousin because I needed someone to listen. I was convinced there was something wrong with the baby, and I began struggling with breastfeeding and then bottle feeding – getting myself into this vicious cycle of feeling like I couldn’t feed my baby at all.

My friend was concerned and she made an appointment with a psychologist at the nearby clinic. I remember taking my notebook with me because I was writing down pages and pages of numbers and dates relating to my baby and his feeding patterns and routines.

Back at home, I would just lay down on the floor and cry and I was having regular panic attacks. But outside of the home, I was doing all of the right things – trying to feed him, dressing him. It probably all seemed fairly normal on the outside but in the background I was panicking, not sleeping, not eating and obsessing over my baby.

The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital…

Apparently, one morning, around 4 or 5am, I’d left the flat, left the door open, with my baby asleep and my mum sleeping on the sofa. I had no shoes on and I got into my car. I drove along the motorway and parked my car on the hard shoulder and got out. What happened after that was devastating. The only thing I can remember is someone saying quick get her a blanket. Then I remember waking up in a hospital.

I’d walked out in front of a lorry. Luckily, I survived. I had some very deep cuts, some bad injuries and I needed stitches in my head. I had some deep wounds on my foot and scars all over my back.

It does cross my mind from time to time about how the driver is today. It must have been such a huge trauma for him and I truly hope he has he recovered from it.

I was quickly transferred to the psych ward where I was sat outside in a wheel chair, covered in blood. We were waiting hours and hours for the psych team to assess me. They eventually decided to admit me and I was taken into a shared room where my family had to leave me due to lockdown rules.

My family were looking after my son and Jamie, who was working in Mexico at the time, flew back home. Meanwhile I was in the psych ward, unable to shower properly because I couldn’t get my injuries wet, feeling as though I was in a prison, with no furnishings or comfortable surroundings and unbelievably tall walls with barbed wire so nobody could escape.

I don’t feel I received particularly good treatment while I was there. And I remember another girl who was in there suggesting I start to write things down to keep track of the doctors I was speaking to and the meds I was put on. When my sister and Jamie came in to see me I saw a psychiatrist who granted me permission to go home under my husband’s care.

We then went into full lockdown and my husband had to try to look after both me and our son at the same time. I think he has so much strength to have been able to put up with what I now know was absolutely shocking and both terrifying behaviour.

The team of psychiatrists would come to our house twice a week and I had some zoom calls with my psychologist during lockdown. They were trying to find the right combination of meds for me but apparently they weren’t working and they suggested I go back to the psych ward without my baby – and of course no visitors were allowed because of lockdown, so I really didn’t want to go back there.

One of my friends in the UK who worked in health contacted Jamie because she had found my messages really concerning. She had heard about Mother and Baby Units in the UK and Jamie, who’s Scottish, got in touch with APP to find out more and then made contact with an MBU in Glasgow. They said I could be admitted.

Jamie had to drive us all from Spain to Calais and then to a friend’s in Cumbria before reaching Stirling, where he immediately got me an emergency doctor’s appointment. By that point my paranoia and symptoms were so bad the doctor called an ambulance and I was immediately admitted to the MBU with my baby.

Because I’d come from Spain I had to have ten days in isolation, so Jamie went back to work to bring in some money because nobody was allowed to visit me anyway.

I ended up spending five months in the MBU. I was admitted in the May, and discharged in the October.

I remember in the MBU there were quite big rooms and we had our own bathrooms, a nice play area and garden with picnic benches and windmills. They organised things like crafts, cookery and pram walks which I enjoyed, and I remember me and one of the other girls used to make apple crumbles.

Unfortunately, because I still didn’t seem to be improving, I had to have ECT. I was so nervous and I appealed it but Jamie gave permission because he thought it was my only chance of getting better.

The doctor I saw before each ECT session was so lovely, I remember he always reassured me. I never got to know his name and I’ve always wanted to thank him for his kindness. I had 18 ECT treatments in total. The only thing I complained about was having a sore head, but apparently that’s quite common.

When my son was due to turn one, however, the MBU had to plan my discharge, because they were only funded to look after mums with babies less than a year old. I started going to my in-laws’ house on weekends and eventually was recovered enough to have a full discharge. However, I caught Covid, so we had to isolate in an Air BnB for a while which was really tough. Eventually, we made it back to Spain in a far better position than we had been when we left.

I’m still on medication today, but just a low dose of antidepressants. I’ve stopped the antipsychotics and things are slowly getting back to some kind of normality.

My son started going to nursery and he’s picking up both Spanish and English, which makes me so proud. And I went back to work in the September of 2021, so I had time to get back into normal life, start exercising again and focusing on me.

Looking back, it was a very scary and intense period, especially with it all happening during lockdown. But now Jamie and I are out the other side, we are both really keen to raise awareness, because nobody in my family had even heard of PP before I was diagnosed.

I’ve trained to be a peer supporter with APP, so I can share my experience and hope with other families who are going through what we did. I know that when Jamie first spoke with APP’s peer support lead, Ellie, when I was really ill, it made such a difference so I hope that we can now pass on that support. Just knowing that someone else has been where you are and come out the other side makes all the difference.