Tag Archives: MBUs

APP to speak at international perinatal mental health conference 

Members of the Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP) team, including staff, trustees and ambassadors, will be speaking to a global audience of expert researchers later this month as part of the International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health Conference. 

The conference takes place between Monday 19th and Friday 23rd September and will welcome leading experts in perinatal mental health from institutions and organisations around the world. The Society is led by a board of experts including APP’s very own trustee, Professor Ian Jones, who also serves as the conference’s co-chair.

Having the opportunity to speak at such an event will enable us to share best practice and stimulate conversation specifically around postpartum psychosis (PP), raising awareness of the illness, as well as our campaign asks, amongst a much wider pool of academics and health professionals. The more researchers and professionals we get talking about postpartum psychosis, the more collective power we have to build knowledge, effect change, challenge stigma and improve services for women and families affected.

The two sessions APP will be involved with or leading are:

What do women and families need from perinatal mental health services? 

This session will be chaired by Dr Clare Dolman (APP trustee and Vice Chair for the Maternal Mental Health Alliance) and feature our brilliant ambassador Laura Dockrill, who will be sharing her personal experience of PP, as well as our National NHS Contracts Coordinator, Hannah Bissett, who will be speaking about the value of peer support in perinatal services. They will be joined by Dr Henry Fay – a former GP with experience of PP as a partner, and current trustee with the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.

APP ambassador Laura Dockrill will be sharing her lived experience story

Postpartum psychosis: strategies and collaborations to increase knowledge, address stigma and improve care globally

This session will be chaired by our CEO Dr Jess Heron and will feature discussion from Hannah Bissett as well as Dr Sally Wilson, APP’s National Training and Research Coordinator. The APP team will present evaluations of some of APP’s projects including: APP’s health professional training in PP; peer support services; and the ongoing campaign for Mother & Baby Units. The discussion will focus on exploring the ingredients for lasting impact, lessons learned, and how this learning might be used to influence care for women and families affected by PP globally.

APP’s CEO Dr Jess Heron will be chairing a session

About the International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health

The International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health was formed at an international conference in 1980. The purpose of that conference was to bring together different strands of research in puerperal mental disorders. It was recognised that there needed to be a forum to discuss puerperal mental illness in its broadest sense, and as such the Society was formed. The Society was named after Louis Victor Marcé, a French psychiatrist who wrote the first treatise entirely devoted to puerperal mental illness, published in 1858.

Other notable sessions at this year’s conference include Postpartum Psychosis: Cross-cultural conceptualisation in Malawi, India and the UK; Advances in the Pharmacology of Mood Disorders during Pregnancy; Offspring of parents with Psychosis: Pre-postnatal indicators of risk and resilience; Consensus and Controversies in the classification of Postpartum Psychosis in DSM-V; as well as a session focused on fathers’ mental health: Fathers’ Perinatal Experiences, Mental Health and Impact on Family Health.

One of the key aims of this year’s conference is to highlight the UK’s best practice in lived experience involvement, and encourage this trend internationally. The conference events will take place both in London and virtually.

Find out more about the conference here

The conference itself is no longer taking delegate bookings, however, we’ll be sharing some of the key highlights and things we’ve learned, so watch this space for more info.

To join the APP network and sign up to our newsletter click here

If you’re attending the conference, please do join in the discussion on social media by using the hashtag #Marce22 and tagging us @ActiononPP

 

Joanne’s story: “It was heartbreaking to be separated from Joshua”

Joanne from Northern Ireland experienced postpartum psychosis in 2008, 13 weeks after giving birth to Joshua, her fourth child in five years. Joanne shared her story with APP and journalist Kate Skelton:

Unfortunately the birthing experience in hospital with my third child had left me traumatised. I suffered horrendous neglect during labour and up until delivery I didn’t know if either of us would survive.

In total contrast, and in a different hospital, Joshua’s birth could not have went better, which was such a relief for me. But at seven weeks old he was very ill and contracted bronchiolitis. He wasn’t breathing very well and needed urgent care so I had to take him to the hospital where I had been previously traumatised. He was admitted straight away and we were put into an insulation ward.

I now know I was being triggered and started reliving my traumatic birth experience.

I was petrified as I didn’t feel safe there - I didn’t sleep, I was worried sick about my baby and kept hyper vigilante to make sure Joshua was okay.

Thankfully Joshua got better and we were discharged.

It wasn’t until six weeks later during a visit to my parents for their wedding anniversary celebration that I began to experience symptoms.

I started to feel really cold and suddenly my feet and legs went numb. I told my parents to call an ambulance. Soon I was completely paralysed and I was unable to speak.

My Mum thought I was having a stroke. I got blue lighted to hospital - and yes, you guessed it, back to the one where I had been traumatised. My body went in and out of paralysis, I was hallucinating and my speech was incoherent. Something was badly wrong with my brain but the professionals had no idea what was going on. Soon I was displaying symptoms of mania and psychosis and had to be sectioned and admitted to the local psychiatric ward.

I clearly remember being surrounded by at least 12-15 members of staff, physically restrained, forcibly dragged and then thrown into a van that transported me to the locked ward. I must have been sedated as I woke up on the floor of the ward hanging onto the leg of a chair and the shoe laces of a male member of staff. I was a pathetic sight.

I kept asking  ‘where is my baby?’ but no one told me anything. I was terrified, helpless being separated from my family and now surrounded by all the other severely ill female patients. One young girl had obviously been self-harming and had injured herself by shaving her head and cutting herself with a razor blade. I was terrified, and totally freaked out. I had never witnessed anything like that before.

Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 29-6-2022

The old Victorian ward was awful - it was run down and painted in a horrible grey colour. It was more like a prison than a hospital ward with bars on all the windows and staff watching us patients from a secure room. All I heard was doors banging loudly and large bunches of keys being jangled. I knew I was locked up, going nowhere and I had no idea if or when I would ever get out.

To say the experience was traumatic is an understatement, definitely not the proper place for an unwell Mum to be who had recently given birth. General psychiatric facilities are totally inappropriate for women with postpartum psychosis as they require specialist diagnosis and treatment; plus their basic needs to be with or even see their babies are not provided for.

I wasn’t given a diagnosis of postpartum psychosis back then only of manic depression (bipolar disorder), so more information would have been helpful for me to try and make sense of what had happened. It was during my recovery and finding APP online that I first heard of postpartum psychosis and its connection to bipolar.

Northern Ireland and the whole of Ireland still have no perinatal wards or MBUs (Mother and Baby Units) which is outrageous in 2022 when so many women suffer postpartum psychosis.

I firmly believe if I could have been treated in an MBU it would have been life-changing for me; speeding up my recovery as I could have been with my baby boy instead of constantly fretting for him. It was heart breaking to be separated from Joshua when all I wanted to do was love and nurture him. I was denied the opportunity to both care for my baby in those early weeks and have the chance to further develop the crucial mother & baby bond – something I still feel very guilty about 14 years on.

 

 

Ailania’s story - I was diagnosed early and treated in an MBU – others are not so lucky

I’d had some experience of mild depression in my late teens and early 20s, but nothing could have prepared me for becoming seriously unwell with postpartum psychosis.

Being pregnant for the first time, my husband and I were like fish out of water. However, it was a really straightforward pregnancy for the most part, and I felt in a good place mentally. We went along to antenatal classes – where there was a brief mention of postnatal depression – but I didn’t really consider it could be an issue for me as I felt really well.

However, towards the end of my pregnancy I became more anxious. I was overdue and I felt disappointed in myself because of that. Eventually, I went into labour naturally but had to have a forceps delivery because my contractions were inconsistent.

I was in so much pain and so exhausted when my little boy was born, I felt like I was in a state of numbness. I just felt so relieved that the birth was over.

After a little time in hospital, I started to feel really confused. I was given charts to fill in about feeding times and I just couldn’t get my head around them, which I found really distressing. I put it down to just being really tired.

We were discharged and I went home with my husband and new baby, and things seemed OK for the first couple of days. But then everything went downhill really quickly, and my husband suggested we go back to the hospital to speak to someone.

From my point of view, everything was really confusing at that point. I hadn’t slept for about five days straight, and my thoughts were just running wild – but there was no cohesiveness to them. I had this overwhelming sense that something terrible was going to happen, and I kept thinking that I might die, so I was in a state of constant panic. I also started to exhibit some quite unusual behaviour at that time, for example, I was dressing in winter clothes even though it was springtime, and I was obsessively cleaning the house.

That’s when my husband noticed that things weren’t right and phoned the hospital.

He shared his concerns and was advised to bring me straight back to the maternity ward.

By this point I had become obsessed with colours and the need for things to be colour co-ordinated in order for everything to be OK. I remember a nurse carrying a mug that was the same colour as her coat and I remember telling her that it made me feel better because the colours matched. I had this awful fear of something bad happening and I felt I had to prevent that by surrounding myself with matching colours.

I also started believing that I might have died, or that my baby might have died, and that the other parents in the hospital were actors and their babies fake. It felt as though we were in a film set or something, but I also remember thinking the TV set was sending messages to me and I was having auditory and visual hallucinations by then as well, and often not being able to recognise my own baby.

I was seen by a psychiatrist really quickly and she diagnosed me straight away with postpartum psychosis, explaining everything to my husband and mother in law and referring me to the nearest Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).

I was so lucky to be sent almost immediately to the MBU, which was only about 25 miles from our home in Edinburgh.

I’m from Belfast, and there is currently no MBU in the whole of Northern Ireland, so I knew that other mums in my situation wouldn’t have been so lucky.

My symptoms started to decrease during my time on the MBU, where I spent around seven weeks altogether. Initially I was under 24 hour observation, but then, as I started to get better, I was able to start building back my confidence and gaining my independence again.

After being discharged, I was still under the care of the MBU, and was regularly visited by an occupational therapist and a community psychiatric nurse – the same one I had met on the MBU.

Sadly, when my son was around seven months old, I became unwell again – but this time with depression. The first time I was admitted to the MBU it was on a section but this time I volunteered my admission, because I knew I needed help to get well and bond with my baby – and I knew that the MBU was the best place for me.

Getting a bed on an MBU twice meant that I was doubly lucky and it meant I was able to recover quickly and strengthen my bond with my baby. With the help of the staff at the Unit, I began growing in confidence as a mum and my love for my son really grew.

It was only during my recovery that my diagnosis was properly explained to me. At the time of my illness, I wasn’t able to process anything at all. But I remember feeling really upset because I’d never heard of PP and I felt really alone in it.

As I started to do my own research on what this illness was, I stumbled across APP and realised that I wasn’t alone at all – all these other mums had been through what I had. It made everything a lot easier to process.

Since my illness I’ve had a diagnosis of anxiety and PTSD, so I’ve just finished cognitive behavioural therapy for that, which has really helped.

Now I want to raise awareness of PP so that other families feel less alone, because it’s such a traumatic experience to go through. However, I do feel lucky that I got the diagnosis - and therefore the specialist care I so badly needed - really quickly.

Women need MBUs because they work. It’s frightening to think that some places, like my home of Northern Ireland, still don’t have them.

Tonna Trekkers complete their #MilesforMumsandBabies Challenge!

Collage of the Uned Gobaith Miles for Mums team
Uned Gobaith team members taking part in their challenge.

A team of 17 from Uned Gobaith Mother and Baby Unit in Swansea Bay, Wales, have completed their APP #MilesforMumsandBabies Challenge this month - covering over 1000 miles between them during May.

In their first week they covered over 300 miles, initially doing the majority of them separately but they went on to organise a series of group walks - with a team of them even making it to the top of Pen Y Fan - the highest peak in Compilation of images of the team in their purple APP tshirtsSouth Wales!

 

Bethan Williams, Nursery Nurse at the unit, has been keeping us updated on their progress.

She says 'It's been lovely for us all getting out in the fresh air and has been a great team building activity, we have all enjoyed encouraging each other.  Between us we have walked, run, cycled and ridden 1018.4 miles across Wales, England, Norway and Greece.  We have had a number of group walks and our children and pets have enjoyed joining in with us.

We are thrilled that we have raised over £1,200 for APP and are looking forward to taking part in more challenges over the years. It has been a lovely event for us to do to celebrate our first year as a team.'

Tonna Trekkers on Aberavon Beach

Huge congratulations to the team on their amazing achievement and a massive thank you from all at APP!

You can still show your support for them at: www.justgiving.com/team/TeamTonnaTrekkers

Nia’s story: I had to travel many miles from home to access an MBU

Living with bipolar meant that we had lots to consider when we were planning a family. We had to get the perinatal mental healthcare team involved from the very start to make sure we had a plan if anything were to go wrong. I knew that, because of my bipolar diagnosis, there was a chance that giving birth could trigger my symptoms, so there was talk of me being admitted to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) should I need that extra support.

I didn’t really know anything about MBUs at that point, and I was feeling really well so I felt confident that all would be OK. However, towards the end of my pregnancy more problems arose – I had preeclampsia, high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. It meant that I was under additional pressure, but my mental health still seemed to be on an even keel.

However, I was then told I had to have an elective caesarean and, because I’m on medication for my bipolar, I had to come off it 24 hours before the surgery. This was to allow the medicine to be removed from my body before giving birth.

I had the caesarean as planned on the 17th May 2019. Unfortunately, they had problems getting the epidural into my back so I had to be sedated. When I came round, they initially gave my baby to me but then immediately took him away again because he had a temperature and wasn’t feeding. He was taken into special care.

In the personalised care plan that the perinatal mental health team had put together at the start of the pregnancy, it stated that I needed to have my own, quiet room as lack of sleep can be a big trigger for bipolar symptoms. Unfortunately, somebody else needed the room so I was moved to a ward with crying babies. At this point, my baby boy was still in another part of the hospital.

Eventually, we were given a special care room together because, in addition to my bipolar risks, my little boy had to be tube fed. But by this point I was already becoming unwell. My mind was racing and I wasn’t sleeping.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the MBU in Manchester – many miles from our family home in North Wales.

Prior to being moved to the MBU, I was in a state of psychosis and my memories of this time are a complete blur. I think my mind has just shut out memories of the trauma, but it was a different matter for my husband, who was in the throes of it all, desperately trying to get me the right help. It was really difficult for him because the midwife was off, as was the care coordinator and the psychiatrist! I was initially transferred to a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) in North Wales but then I was moved to the MBU in Manchester as there was nothing closer to home.

I was grateful to have access to an MBU, as it meant that I was able to stay with my baby. But the fact that we had to travel two hours from home made life really difficult. Each day, my husband was travelling for four hours between the hospital and our home, and doing a full time job in between all the travel. The stress he was under was immense.

Regardless, Tommy continued to visit every day and that’s something I am so grateful for because, when you’re in hospital so far from home, it can feel really isolating and lonely. Two hours is a long time when you’re in mental health crisis. I did make some friends in the MBU, but when you’re so far from home it makes everything feel ten times harder.

I had to have ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) whilst I was at the MBU, but this was a treatment that had worked for me in the past and, combined with the medication, I started to slowly recover.

Eventually, I was allowed overnight stays at home, then visits for a few days at a time and then, by around the end of July, I was finally discharged. Getting home was such a good feeling, and I really started to feel well again.

However, unless something changes, I don’t think we’d consider another baby as the experience was far too stressful and traumatic for the family.

There’s a national shortage of MBUs overall but, where I live in North Wales, we literally don’t have one at all. I remember the doctor telling me that, if we decided to have another baby, I would probably need to give birth in England so that I had quick access to specialist care if I became mentally unwell again. Because I’m Welsh, I really wouldn’t want to feel as thought I was forced to have my baby in England.

I’m also not confident that we’d be able to get in to the Manchester MBU again. There is such a shortage of MBU beds, so, if we couldn’t get in, it could mean travelling even further away – and the strain on Tommy, and myself and the baby, would be unbearable.

I know how lucky we are to have our baby boy but we’d love for him to be able to have a baby brother or sister. For women like me living in North Wales who are at risk of serious postnatal mental illness, there needs to be specialist care closer to home. I know I definitely communicate better in Welsh, especially when I am unwell, so having support in the Welsh language is also really important.

This is why I’m campaigning for an MBU for North Wales – so other new mums and their families can access support in their first language and to stop so many having to travel so far from home to get the essential care they need.

 

Simon completes 852 virtual miles raising awareness of support needed for partners during postpartum psychosis

We are absolutely thrilled that today, our brilliant partner peer support coordinator, Simon O’ Mara, completed his mammoth 852 mile journey raising awareness of postpartum psychosis, its impact on partners and the need for more Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) in the UK.

Marking the launch of a new support project for the partners of women who develop postpartum psychosis, Simon challenged himself to complete a virtual tour of all UK MBUs to highlight their importance in caring for the whole family unit at this critical time.

Simon, whose wife was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis 15 years ago, said: “As a partner, when all hell’s breaking loose and your wife and child have to go to an MBU, even though it’s the right thing, you feel like you’re losing them. But for some people, due to lack of services in their local areas, they have the added difficulty of travelling a really long way to see their loved ones.

“I initially planned to do the journey out on the road, but due to lockdown restrictions in the early stages of planning, I changed my plans to complete the cycle ride on my smart trainer.

“Doing a smart cycle ride of 852 miles felt like it might actually be a little easier – you don’t have to contend with the weather or road traffic. But it proved really hard at times, especially after a long day’s work when all you really want to do is relax and put your feet up with your family.

“Using the Zwift software and cycling virtually with others from all around the world was a real motivating factor though, as was meeting with some of the MBUs along the journey via Microfost Teams. It’s really kept me going and I’m delighted to have raised £800 for Action on Postpartum Psychosis.”

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.”

Dr Jess Heron, Chief Executive, Action on Postpartum Psychosis, 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 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 have 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 raising awareness of the support needs of partners and we’ve all been cheering him on from the ‘virtual’ sidelines! We are all incredibly proud of what he has achieved.”

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

To find out more about Simon’s story, or to add to his fundraising efforts, visit his JustGiving Page 

To support the petition for an MBU in North Wales click here