Ahead of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (1-8 May), we sat down with Jo, Becky and Caroline; three of the TALKWORKS Perinatal Champions. In our conversation, we discussed the importance of looking after your mental health when you are a new or expecting parent, and why the team are so passionate about the work that they do within our service:
Caroline: Perinatal mental health is the period of time from pregnancy to when the baby is 2 years old, and how the person is feeling during this time. It can be a time of lots of mixed feelings and change; not just for the mum, but also for partners.
Jo: At TALKWORKS, we prioritise people in the perinatal period as we know this is a time of great change - physically, mentally and logistically. You undergo huge changes to your body, hormones and entire life as you adapt to life as a parent.
Jo: Having had my own children, I understand how different life becomes when you become a Mum. Although it is a time of great joy, it is also really challenging. There are so many new things to learn and get to grips with, and it can feel totally overwhelming at times. It can also be quite isolating and lonely. I think if people can talk about how they feel, understand that this is normal and connect with others it can make such a difference.
Becky: After having my children and experiencing the transition into motherhood, I had an appreciation for the incredible journey that this is. I am really passionate about normalising perinatal mental health difficulties by informing parents about the changes and challenges they may experience, and empowering them to seek help if they need it.
Caroline: Becoming a mum was a huge change for me and brought some challenges! I was keen to raise awareness and support for mums with this transition. Being a perinatal champion enables me to keep a focus on maternal mental health and build links with local support services to help new and expecting parents.
Jo: The team of perinatal champions meet monthly to talk about ways in which our service can meet the needs of adults in the perinatal period. We keep up to date with the current recommendations and research, and have training on issues related to perinatal mental health. We run courses and workshops around looking after your health and wellbeing before pregnancy, and after welcoming a child. We also link in with the Devon Partnership NHS Trust Perinatal Mental Health Team, keeping up to date with what both services are offering, and discussing how we can work together to support our patients.
Becky: We also offer assessments and therapy for men and women in the perinatal period. Part of this includes offer guided self-help treatment for depression, anxiety, maternal OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and panic in the antenatal and post-natal period. We also signpost parents to other community organisations that may they may find beneficial (including baby groups, breastfeeding peer support, mum support groups).
Caroline: For me, it’s seeing people work to overcome challenges that they have been struggling with.
Jo: I love being able to work with people individually to facilitate them finding what works for them. We are all different and it is really rewarding to see how far people can come with a little bit of support.
Becky: I really enjoy working in an NHS service that promotes accessing help as soon as possible. There is no such thing as not being ‘bad enough’ for support. You are not alone, reaching out to TALKWORKS could help.
Jo: Talk about how you are feeling. Speak to a partner, friend, family member, or reach out to TALKWORKS. Talking can really help. Being a new parent can be isolating at times and just connecting with someone else who’s been there can be so normalising and reassuring that you are not alone.
Caroline: Recognise that when you are having a bad day that it won’t be like this all of the time. I’ve found parenting a bit like surfing waves, sometimes I feel like I’m riding them really well and others I can’t seem to paddle up them, but reminding myself that a bad day will pass definitely helps.
Becky: Take time for yourself to meet your needs. This can be difficult when you are pregnant, have a baby, and even have older children too but meeting your needs can better help you to look after those around you that are dependent on you. Eat good food, drink water, and make time for the things that are of value to you.
If you have recently welcomed a child or are an expecting parent, please remember that support for your mental health and wellbeing is available to you through TALKWORKS. We can offer therapy in a variety of formats, including one-to-one sessions, group workshops, online self-help and text-based therapy. Whether you’re struggling to sleep, feeling low, worried, anxious or stressed, please know that you are not alone and you can talk to TALKWORKS. As part of the NHS, our treatment and support is available free of charge to adults across Devon outside Plymouth (adults in Plymouth can access support through Plymouth Options). Call 0300 555 3344 to speak to a member of the team (our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm) or you can refer yourself online through our self-referral form.