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Caithness News Bulletins January 2003

January 2003 Caithness.org News 2002

Dec 2002

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There is life after birth!

Lorna and Christine met each other in Craig Dunain where they were both being treated for Post Natal depression. They clicked with each other in the way that only women can do when they share similar experiences and problems. The friendship they struck forged a bond that they still share four years later. The Inverness women have opened a web site on the Internet to help support other new mothers who are suffering the same traumas as they did.  The women are also happy to help by telephone, hands on or by letter to give advice and empathy to other women who feel isolated and stigmatised by the fact that they are not totally at one with, and in love, with their babies.

Sally, Lorna, Tina and Jo

Christine is very frank about her experience and hopes she can use her story to help other mothers.

She said:
‘I had waited seven years for my first baby. I had no financial worries and my husband was understanding and supportive. I felt over the moon and totally elated after my son was born – for a month, and then the bubble burst. Because my son was premature, he was taken to the Premature Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) and the staff there were brilliant. However, I missed out on the bonding I should have had with my son and was left in a ward with other mothers who had their babies with them and I felt so isolated. After two weeks, I left Raigmore and went home, but felt I could not cope as everything had been done for my son in hospital and my safety net had gone. I worried about everything. Was he getting enough to eat? Was he getting enough to drink? Would I know if something was wrong? I just couldn’t trust myself to look after him. On top of this I wasn’t sleeping and would be awake most of the night to check if my son was still breathing. Eventually I couldn’t go on any longer and went to see my GP, who prescribed anti-depressants. Things went from bad to worse and I remember just wanting someone to talk to who had experienced the difficulties I had and to tell me they understood and that I would get better. I ended up being admitted to Craig Dunain and after a good night’s sleep I felt much better. After two weeks I was discharged, went home and never looked back.’

Lorna, who is now pregnant with her third baby and thriving on it had a similar story to tell:
‘After the sudden death of my daughter I got pregnant again quickly and, after a long labour, gave birth to my son by emergency section. He was taken to the SCBU unit for a couple of days as he had a slight infection. When I got him back, I couldn’t cope and asked the nurses to take him away again as I didn’t feel anything for him, but nobody understood nor would they listen. Once I was home I found it harder and harder to do anything and could neither look after my new baby nor my five year old daughter. I was prescribed anti-depressants, but felt more and more suicidal every day. Eventually I cut my wrists and was admitted to Craig Dunain. I felt safe and secure in hospital to the point that when I was allowed out shopping, I could not wait to get back to ‘my safe haven.’ After eight weeks I got home. Christine and I continued our close friendship and decided to set up HAPIS, a website to help other women who felt like we did. If there was one thing that I would say to any woman suffering from postnatal depression it would be to talk, talk and talk, especially to people who know what you are saying is not crazy, but normal for post natal depression. I am now expecting another baby, which I did not think I would . It has taken a while, but the Health Services are listening, which is obvious from the seminar. There has also been talk of setting up groups in other areas of the Highlands.'

Christine and Lorna wanted to turn their experience around and help others. The majority of women would not have as bad an experience as Lorna and Christina had as their postnatal depression was particularly severe. Most women recover with help and support in their own home from their families, GPs, Midwives and Health Visitors, or indeed by contacting HAPIS.

The facts are that there have only been six admissions into New Craigs in the past year with postnatal depression. There are risk factors that can be identifed if someone is at risk but these are indicators rather than a trigger. However, death from a mental disorder after childbirth is far more prevalent than death from actually giving birth.

Both Christina and Lorna could not speak highly enough of Jo Veasey and the support she has given them. Jo is a Public Health Practitioner, working for Inverness Local Health Care Co-operative. She is from a midwife and health visiting background with a special interest in postnatal depression:

Jo said:
When Christina contacted me I nearly bit her hand off in my rush to get involved because I understood the particular problems she would face. Both Lorna and Christina have been tireless in their work with HAPIS making an important contribution for women’s health in the Highlands. Anything that helps to raise professional & public awareness of postnatal depression is a good thing. It is useful for health visitors, midwives & GPs etc. to know there is a support group available. Professionals are not always the best support for women, and it is important to new mothers that the group members have shared similar experiences to them. The mums say it is really helpful to discover they are not alone.’

In the NHS Highland area, there are approximately 2,000 births a year. Out of these, 34 women will use existing mental health services, 4 might have to go to hospital, up to 300 will experience post-natal depression and up to 200 might have temporary emotional distress.

Sally Amor, a Public Health Specialist for NHS Highland, said:
‘It is important that mothers experiencing postnatal depression get good support. It is only recently that we realised that the relationship in the first weeks and months of life in influencing the health and well being of the child, and subsequent adult, is of paramount importance. With this in mind, and as part of a programme of work to strengthen children, families and communities across Highland, considerable work is underway within NHS Highland and partner agencies to identify and help women, and those close to them, who experience post-natal depression. All of us have a role to play in supporting new mothers, fathers and families at this exciting time of change, a new baby in the family. Mothers bonding with their babies is very important and some people need help to do this. We know from research that women who have had postnatal depression detected early on, and get support, move on and get great satisfaction from being a parent.’

and Michael Perera, Mental Services Development Manager for the Highland Primary Care NHS Trust added:
‘Many services and agencies across Highland have a role to play in supporting women experiencing a difficult time with the birth of a new baby. Our specialist service welcomes involvement in developing this important programme of work’.

The Hapis website number is http://www.hapis.org.uk/
Helpline Number :  0775 468 7423 

See also
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