The number of women experiencing perinatal mental illness is increasing, with research showing up to 20% of women developing a mental health problem during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth*. We also know that suicide is a main cause of death in mothers giving birth in the UK.
Perinatal mental health covers a wide range of conditions and if left untreated mental health issues can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman, the child, and the wider family.
However, perinatal mental illness is potentially preventable, partially predictable and definitely treatable. That’s why our Specialist Perinatal Mental Health team at NHFT brought together trainee GP’s from across Northamptonshire and supportive organisations to come together at a conference to raise awareness and educate GP trainee’s about Perinatal Mental Health and the issues surrounding it.
GP’s play a key role in detecting and treating personal mental illness as they are often the first point of call for many people and can support with early intervention, so working with trainee GP’s is a perfect time for them to learn about the issue.
The conference was held on Wednesday 5 February 2020 at the Park Inn, Northampton and was attended by over 110 people with over 80 of these attendees being trainee GP’s from both the Northampton and Kettering training scheme.
The day included a jam packed agenda with a number of keynote speakers from within the perinatal mental health profession, as well as supporting charities which we have highlighted below.
Throughout the day there was a real buzz in the room with some great discussions taking place from all those involved. Real-life cases were also discussed that had been adapted to a GP perspective! This interactive session gave the trainees an opportunity to get involved and it was great to see them all participating.
Dr Elizabeth Davison, GP Perintal Mental Health Champion under the Spotlight project
This session was all about the importance of understanding perinatal mental health for GP’s and the risks associated with these issues. Dr Davison discussed opportunities to improve care, principles of treatment and helpful resources in practise.
As part of her talk Dr Davison also introduced the ‘ABCDE approach’:
- Anticipate and assess risk: check notes, flag women at risk, preconception care, mental health reviews, contraception and medication reviews
- Be aware of your own prejudice: look behind the smile and be aware of stigma, encourage discussion without judgement
- Contact and compassion: Ask, acknowledge and listen – don’t just hear
- Open the door to disclosure and follow up more regularly
- Promote self-care and wellbeing
- Don’t stop medication! get advice and information
- Effective, evidence-based treatment: reassure and offer hope
Sarah Butterwoth, Clinical Psychologist at NHFT
An introduction to the local services available and psychological treatments that can be used in Perinatal Mental Health.
The NHFT Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service provides assessment and treatment for women who are experiencing or are at an increased chance of experiencing a severe mental health condition during pregnancy and up to one year after birth (known as the perinatal period).
Dr Bhanu Chadlavada, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at NHFT
Dr Chadlavada session provided an insight into clinical information around Perinatal Mental Health and also led an interactive, online quiz which everyone got involved with! It was great to see some competitiveness in the room too!
Mark Williams, Fathers’ Mental Health campaigner and author
A pleasure to have Mark with us who travelled all the way from South Wales to attend. Mark shared a very engaging and passionate talk about his personal experience of mental health difficulties surrounding the birth of his baby.
Sally Wilson, National Training Co-ordinator- Action on Postpartum Psychosis
We were delighted to have Sally with us to share her personal perspective, providing a talk which was sensitively delivered on a very personal story. Her talk also included information about the important charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis.
Carly Galpin, Service Manger Specialist, NHFT Perinatal Mental Health Team
As part of a project the NHFT Perinatal Mental Health Team are undertaking, Carly led a workshop in the afternoon with GP trainees about how best to engage with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities - some useful perspectives were gained.
It was great to see so many partners in attendance with stalls, to provide information and advice to those in attendance. Working collaboratively is so important, particularly in Perinatal Mental Health as we know the effects are far ranging and different organisations can provide different forms of support.
Perinatal mental health affects so many. The support from the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund and the BMA Wellbeing Support Services was important for this.
The following organisations had stalls or contributed literature to goody bags:
- 0-19 Services
- Breast Feeding
- Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Services
- Family Nurse Partnership
- Tiny Steps
Great feedback was received from those who attended, some of these are included below:
“Really fantastic and stimulating session, great to be taught by experts and to have a mix with patient stories and charity’s”
“A really informative session which was well run and delivered efficiently. Delivered with the audience in mind. Targeted to informing us on local resources”
“The professionalism of the presenters. The openness of the presenters and willingness to answer questions”
“It was educating; I learnt from some speakers' personal experience; The delivery was excellent”
“I enjoyed the various experience related. It helps to see things from the patients perspective. I surely felt more confident”
The teams next steps include:
- The team continue to work with BAME communities to improve the accessibility of services.
- Increasing access from 4.5% to 10% of the birth rate incrementally over the next 5 years
- Assessment and signposting of fathers and partners of women experiencing perinatal mental health conditions who may be experiencing their own mental health conditions
- Increasing access to psychological therapies for women in the perinatal period
Dr Kate Price, Lead Perintal Engagement Worker at NHFT said:
“I am so glad the event went so well. Having suffered perinatal mental illness myself and being a GP, not long out of training, I know how important it is for GPs to be ‘clued up’ on the topic and able to respond in a timely, informed and sensitive way when presented with someone suffering with perinatal mental illness or their families.
“Hopefully the event goes some way to improving awareness, reducing stigma and discovering ways to improve our links with BAME communities in this vital area. I hope we have inspired the next generation of local GPs to be involved in perinatal mental health, have discussions with women and their families, ask the difficult questions and ultimately improve outcomes for our women.
“I would like to say a big thank you to all of our supporters, Emily Wallis (Programme Director, Northampton GP speciality training scheme), Carly Galpin (Head of Service for the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team), Park Inn for excellent organisational support but most of all Victoria Brown (Project Support- Perinatal Engagement) who worked incredibly hard pulling the day together and without which the event wouldn’t have happened.”
For more information on the Specialist Perinatal Mental Health please visit: www.nhft.nhs.uk/perinatal
*NHS England (2016). Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. Redditch: NHS England.