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Celebrating Local Services on Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

It's Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (29 April - 5 May), and here in Lewisham we are celebrating the fantastic support provided to women by local services, across the voluntary sector and the NHS.

Mental illness during the perinatal period (from conception to one year after birth) is estimated to affect as many as 20% of expectant and new mothers, which in Lewisham means approximately 1,000 women per year. If it is not addressed, perinatal mental illness can have a devastating impact on these women and their families. On top of the impact on the women themselves, it has been found to negatively impact on the mental health and behavioural, social and emotional development of their children.

For these reasons, providing support with mental wellbeing for women during the perinatal period is a key priority of Lewisham CCG, across adults, children's and maternity services.

Wellbeing and support among peers

Lewisham Mindful Mums is a peer-led programme of support with mental wellbeing for pregnant women and new mothers. The programme is run by Bromley, Lewisham & Greenwich Mind, and aims to improve wellbeing and resilience and reduce isolation by providing women with specific tools to deal with the unique stresses and anxieties of pregnancy and early motherhood. The weekly group sessions are run in Children and Family Centres, by women with their own experience of maternal mental health issues.

The Mindful Mums programme achieves brilliant outcomes for the 150 to 160 women that take part each year, with 97% showing improved resilience scores, 98% reporting increased confidence, 82% feeling better able to cope, 86% feeling happier and 85% feeling less isolated. A number of mums that attend the programme go on to become group leaders themselves.

Women that take part in Mindful Mums speak of the warm, welcoming and safe environment that is created:  

"The diversity of the group was one of its greatest strengths - a group of women of different ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities, who might otherwise never have been in a room together - who all had the challenges of new motherhood in common, and could support each other and learn from each other… I think that I would have taken a lot longer to acknowledge my postnatal depression, and subsequently to recover from it, if I hadn't taken part in Mindful Mums."

Support from Maternity and Health Visiting Services

Suzy Hall (pictured above with Jane Hall, the Lewisham Mindful Mums Project Worker) is the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Midwife working within the Maternity Service at Lewisham Hospital. Suzy works tirelessly to improve the experience of women with mental health needs during pregnancy, labour and post-pregnancy. She provides specialist advice and support to colleagues, and works across organisations to ensure that care for women is integrated and high quality. Suzy has recently been working on new guidelines for women with a fear of birth or 'Tokophobia'.

Women with moderate to severe mental health needs will generally been cared for by the Indigo Specialist Midwifery Team at Lewisham Hospital. This team offers antenatal and postnatal outreach support and home visiting to vulnerable women. The Indigo Team won Maternity Team of the Year at the London Maternity and Midwifery Festival 2018.

The support for women doesn't end after pregnancy, and Michelle Florio, as the Mental Health Specialist Health Visitor for Lewisham, works within the Health Visiting Services as a champion and advocate for affected women and their families. Michelle runs the 'Understanding Your Baby' group, which supports women affected by postnatal depression or anxiety to develop a positive relationship with their baby and develop sensitive and effective parenting.     

For more information about Mindful Mums groups and activities please contact Jane.Hall@BLGMind.org.uk on 07850 639818.

For more information on National Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week