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Wednesday, 04 May 2022
A mum has paid tribute to the perinatal mental health service at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust for the specialist care and support she received following the birth of her second baby.
Fiona Putnam has shared her experience of having perinatal psychosis and depression in a short film the Trust’s perinatal team is sharing to mark Maternal Mental Health Week (2-8 May), a week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental health problems during and after pregnancy.
Fiona is sharing her story in the hope that women experiencing the same feel encouraged to ask for the help they need. She also wants her story to give women hope that ‘not only can you get better, but that you can actually thrive after suffering from a mental health problem.’
“I thought that because my symptoms weren’t as severe the second time round that I would just be left to get on with it, and it was very nice to feel that I had this support network in place to help me out.” says Fiona in the film.
“The first time round I was severely unwell with postpartum psychosis, so I was having a manic episode and for me it hit completely out of the blue, I didn’t actually have any history of mental health problems. The second time I didn’t get the psychosis again. I was doing really well for five weeks and it was when my mum was leaving to go back home the depression hit almost overnight.”
Fiona says that getting help early was crucial for her recovery and is encouraging new mums not to dismiss how they are feeling: “You can think this is the baby blues, but if you’re really not finding joy in anything…it’s better to do it [ask for help] sooner rather than later.
“I’m very grateful that my illness was picked up quickly because it meant that I could really get that intense support that I needed so that I could get better. I didn’t get better straight away, it took me a good year to really build that relationship back up with my daughter, but we have the most wonderful relationship now and you can come through that, but to get it caught early is I think really, really crucial.
“The sooner that it’s caught, the sooner that you can begin rebuilding that relationship with baby, and with yourself as well and getting back to who you are...I think it’s very easy as a parent to put yourself at the back of the queue in terms of needs, but it’s the oxygen mask analogy: you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others.”
Fiona now works as a peer engagement facilitator as part of the perinatal team which involves using her lived experiences to support other women. Fiona also runs a fortnightly coffee morning called Baby Steps which is aimed at new mums who are struggling with their mental health.
“It’s so rewarding to see people getting better,” says Fiona. “One of the biggest endorsements I’ve had in this group is a number of women have said to me ‘this is the only group that I can be in where I can be authentic'."
Talking about the benefits of meeting other like-minded mums, Fiona says: “they do say it takes a village, don’t they? I just think finding your tribe is so important.”
The film, which you can watch here, features Fiona talking about her experiences to Jill Gill, a clinical nurse specialist from the perinatal mental health service.
Anyone interested in joining Baby Steps should contact the perinatal team via firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the perinatal mental health service:
Up to 1 in 5 people experience mild to moderate mental ill-health in pregnancy or after birth. You may already have a mental illness when you get pregnant, be worried because you have had mental health problems before, or develop a mental health problem for the first time.
The perinatal mental health service cares for women across south west London with a range of mental health problems, from moderate to serious mental illness, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, severe depression and schizophrenia.
The service is here to help you stay as well as possible and make sure that you, your partner and family have access to the information, advice, support or treatment that you might need.
Care and treatment options may include evidence based psychological interventions, helping you make a plan for your care, helping partners and family members understand how to support you, or arranging admission to a mother and baby unit if needed.
The service accepts referrals from health and social care professionals, including GPs, obstetricians, midwives, health visitors, and any mental health professional who has reviewed you. It is not possible to self-refer so if you have concerns please speak with your GP, midwife or health visitor who can make a referral for you if appropriate.
You are the best judge of your own health and of your baby's health. If you think there is something out of the ordinary, then it is important to talk to someone and not bottle it up.
More information about the service can be found here.