Help is now at hand for new mums across Sussex who are experiencing mental health problems.
A brand new community-based service will be specifically for mums going through severe difficulties during pregnancy and up to a year after birth.
The Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service (SPMHS), located in Haywards Heath, opened on March 14 and the team of professionals will also support expectant mothers in Sussex and East Surrey who are currently well but have experienced mental health difficulties in the past.
It is being run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and mums who are being supported and NHS staff gathered to celebrate the official launch last month.
Anna from Brighton was referred to the service after the birth of her first child.
She said: “I do not know what would have happened if the perinatal team hadn’t caught me.
“Our baby was premature and I was in hospital for ten days after the birth.
“I was beside myself but I was surrounded by skilled healthcare professionals so things were OK whilst I was in hospital.
“It was when we went home that things went downhill and completely fell apart.
“I wanted my husband to have our child taken away and adopted as I couldn’t cope and thought I was doing everything wrong.
“I just wanted to run; I didn’t know what from, just that I needed to get away.
“I was scared. My husband was scared. He was trying to look after me as well as a premature new born.
“The nurses at the hospital had realised that something wasn’t quite right and I was referred for specialist mental health help. “The support I received was fantastic. I was visited at home by the mental health rapid response service and they came to see me every day.
“At the same time the perinatal team visited me at home.
“They were amazing. My doctor helped me come to terms with the fact that I was now a mum and that my daughter was premature.
“We talked about things from my past that had always been there but never dealt with.
“She helped me realise the importance of self-care and self-compassion.”
Anna added: “It’s so important to talk to someone and let them know if you’re struggling.
“It’s difficult but I’m happy to share my story; if I can make it so that one woman has the same positive outcome that is all I want.”
The service comprises four teams of mental health professionals from a range of backgrounds including psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, parent-infant psychotherapists and nursery nurses.
It offers face to face clinics at a range of different locations across Sussex and East Surrey, including in the family home, and fathers and partners are encouraged to attend the appointments.
Dr Jennifer Cooke, consultant psychiatrist with SPMHS said: “It’s fantastic that so many families and colleagues were able to come together to help us celebrate our new service.
“It’s a really positive step for families that we now have a great service in place offering consistent care for new mums across the whole of Sussex and East Surrey.
“Welcoming a new baby is a very special time but for some mothers, particularly where there is a history of mental illness, it can also be overwhelming as they are worried about what affect their pregnancy will have on their mental wellbeing.
“With support from our teams they now don’t have to cope on their own.”
The event also saw the premiere of a new short film, featuring first hand experiences from mums, explaining more about the service and how it can help.
It can be viewed at www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk/perinatal along with further information about the specialist perinatal mental health service.