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In lead up to Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 May, the local NHS alongside the voluntary and community sector organisations, is urging women and their families to access support for their mental health concerns during and after pregnancy.

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists one in five women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first year after birth.

Amanda Stanford, Chief Nurse at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust and Senior Responsible Officer for Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Better Births Programme, said: “Across the district there are a number of support services, not only provided by the NHS but also the voluntary and community sector, which women and their families can access for their mental health concerns during and after pregnancy. All support services are listed on the Healthy Minds website by scrolling to the bottom of the page www.healthyminds.services/content-article/about-maternal-mental-health

“In the UK, suicide is a leading cause of maternal deaths within a year after childbirth. We know that COVID-19 has increased the mental health risks for new and expectant mums and if left untreated, it can leave a devasting impact on women and their families. Healthcare professionals will have conversations with women and their families to identify if support is needed, they will then refer you and your family to the right support services. However, some people may decide they don’t want to tell their healthcare professional about their mental health concerns, I would strongly encourage you to come forward and to seek support, whether it’s during or after your pregnancy, so that we can make sure you receive the care you need to recover.

“During the awareness week there will be an information stall at the antenatal clinic at Airedale Hospital and a stall at the entrance of the maternity unit at Bradford Hospitals. You’ll be able to take away a goodie bag with you which will include information about local services you can access.”

Ryan, Co-founder of #ItsWorthTalkingAbout, said: “In June 2021 my partner had a miscarriage at 12 weeks and there were three surgical evacuation attempts which my partner found difficult. It was a tough time for us, we had already bought some baby clothes and my partner was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I found it hard to support her because I wasn’t told how I need to handle the situation and what I need to say to comfort her.

“I attended the male support groups at #ItsWorthTalkingAbout as a facilitator but found myself using the groups for my own mental health, which helped me as I was able to speak to other men about how I was feeling. The group were very supportive and provided me with advice which helped me with my partner. It also helped me, as I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders being able to speak to others about what I was going through.

“#ItsWorthTalkingAbout is a Bradford based non-profit organisation. It was set up in March 2020 originally for men’s mental health peer support group in Keighley but has now peer support groups for men and women covering the Worth & Aire Valley. If you’d like to come to one of our support groups, please visit the #ItsWorthTalkingAbout website www.itsworthtalkingabout.org/groups

Jo, from Bradford who has used the Specialist Mother and Baby Mental Health Service at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Lockdown in March 2020 was a rollercoaster for me and my family, as I found out I was pregnant with twins, and I had a lot of anxiety around this. At 20 weeks my consultant referred me to the specialist mother and baby mental health service at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, because of my previous mental health concerns and how anxious I was being pregnant with twins.

“Being referred to the specialist mother and baby mental health service, was a huge relief for me as I was able to talk to someone about how I was feeling and the emotions I was going through. I only needed someone to understand what I was going through and that’s what the specialist mother and baby mental health service provided me with. The service helped me throughout my pregnancy and after the birth of my twins.

“My twins were born prematurely, and they were in neonatal unit for 10 weeks and this was a traumatic experience for me, my husband and my family. However, the support from the service helped us get through this and the team also visited me in hospital as I was there for a week after giving birth to the twins.

“I remember hitting rock bottom when the twins came home, I felt exhausted from making the back-and-forth trips to the hospital whilst they were in the neonatal unit. My anxiety hit all new levels and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to look after the twins on my own, as I always had the support from the nurses whilst in hospital. I came toa point where I felt suicidal, and I ended up calling First Response (provide urgent mental health support by calling 0800 952 1181). They helped me with my suicidal thoughts, and I went through tough couple of months, where I was back with the specialist mother and baby mental health service who help me, my husband, and my family through this period.

“I’m thankful for the support me, my husband, and my family received from the service, they supported us in so many ways. This included writing a letter to our landlord so that we could terminate our contract early, due to the threats we were receiving from our neighbours. Also, because of lockdown and everything that had happened, I was unable to go to a supermarket as it increased my stress levels and made me very anxious. The team at the specialist mother and baby mental health service helped me to overcome this and I never thought I’d be able to look after the girls on my own, but I look after them on my own three days a week.

“My advice to anyone who is struggling with their maternal mental health during or after pregnancy is to get the support you need. You don’t have to do this alone, the bravest thing you can do is open and let people care for you so that you can care for your family. I didn’t think I could get through what we went through, but we’re now a flourishing little family. If you’re referred by your healthcare professional, please take this up as I’m grateful for support I received from the team at the service, they’re part of the family.”

For further information about maternal mental health and support services available, please visit www.healthyminds.services/content-article/about-maternal-mental-health