Jodie Lindley: Supporting new mothers’ mental health

Pregnancy is a special period of time for most families, but unfortunately not for all. It is common for some women to experience mental ill health during pregnancy, or after the baby is born.

Perinatal mental health problems occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child, and are likely to affect up to 20% of women.

They include both conditions that are new and pre-existing that may relapse or recur in pregnancy or in the post-partum year. If left untreated, it can have significant and long lasting effects on the woman and her family.

Historically, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT) had just one specialist mother and baby nurse who offered a service to women living within the city of Lincoln. Following on from the NHS national objective of increasing access to specialist perinatal mental health support, a new team was funded and developed in February 2015. This consisted of a consultant psychiatrist, team manager, community mental health nurses, a social worker, and admin support.

We now cover the entire county and receive referrals from health professionals – mainly GPs, midwives and health visitors. Our aim is to treat women in the community, on occasion there can be a need for mothers to be cared for in hospital.

If they need to be cared for in hospital, they are admitted to mother and baby units, specialist psychiatric hospitals for women and their babies, to ensure that the bond and attachment between mother and baby is promoted and protected. Women receive the appropriate psychiatric help but also have support from staff to care for their babies day and night.

Recently, LPFT has been successful in gaining additional funds from NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to expand and develop the team further. This will increase staff numbers, skill mix and enable us to see more women in a more timely fashion, within a range of settings, by a range of specialisms.

The Lincolnshire Maternity Transformation Programme’s ‘Better Births’ project has developed ‘maternity hubs’ within existing Surestart Centres to collaborate existing community services into one place for women, making it easier and more efficient for accessing multiple resources.

The perinatal team will hold sessions at the hubs to provide support for women alongside their antenatal appointments. We also plan to start community groups with our newly appointed occupational therapist, nursery nurses and peer support workers; something that women who have accessed our service have identified would have helped their treatment and recovery.

I have worked in the perinatal team since it was formed in 2015, and I still absolutely love my job. It’s an honour to support women and their families during a time that can be worrying and distressing, but should be one of the most important and magical times of their lives. It’s very rewarding to help them to make their experiences more positive.

We regularly receive positive feedback from the women that we support saying that they felt reassured, safe and listened to.

For more information about perinatal services in Lincolnshire, please contact Jodie Lindley on 01522 421751.

Jodie Lindley is the Clinical Manager for the Perinatal Mental Health Team at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT).