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by | Thursday, October 14th, 2021 | News

This Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October), we’re reminding bereaved mothers of a new service they can access to receive help and support for their mental health distress across Plymouth and Devon.

The Maternal Mental Health Service (MMHS) launched in Devon in January this year and brings together maternity services, reproductive health and psychological therapy under one roof as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The service is offered to new, expectant, or bereaved mothers by Livewell Southwest, the provider of mental health services in Plymouth and Devon Partnership Trust which provides mental health services in the rest of the county.

The MMHS aims to assess and offer treatment to women experiencing a moderate/complex, severe mental health issue directly arising from their maternity experience, for example PTSD suffering a traumatic birth, loss of a baby or a severe fear of childbirth following a previous loss or trauma.

The service aims to reach a cohort of women that may previously have faced a gap in service by:

  • Increasing support in relation to women and families who have experienced perinatal trauma
  • Offering psychologically informed specialist assessment and formulation
  • Further increasing links to wider psychological services
  • Increased provision of evidence-based therapies
  • Consultation and training to other professionals such as midwives

At Livewell, the MMHS pathway is integrated with our Perinatal Mental Health Team (PMHT) and works closely alongside other service to ensure women receive the right support, at the right time.

Susie Theobald, Perinatal Clinical Team Manager, said: “Since operating, we have had 45 women referred to the service. We have offered specialist assessment to 34 of these women and in addition to this we have offered 102 contacts of evidence based psychological therapies. Without the Maternal Mental Health Service being in operation, these women would have previously faced a gap in the service and potentially been left with unmet needs.”

Lizzie is one of the women who has been successfully supported by the MMHS at Livewell.

Lizzie had a miscarriage prior to her most recent pregnancy which triggered low mood, a sense of lost safety and heightened danger, nightmares and intrusions around the miscarriage and a lack of excitement about the new baby.

During her pregnancy, she was referred to Livewell’s PMHT by her midwife, and it was identified that an assessment under the MMHS would be appropriate.

Lizzie was offered Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories; this intervention was able to reach Lizzie’s core worry that the miscarriage was her fault, and the sessions of EMDR were successful in working through this.

This freed Lizzie up to start feeling excitement towards the new baby, while continuing to remember the lost baby and not feel that she was responsible for what happened.

Through this work, all the identified symptoms of PTSD, as well as her feelings of low mood and loss of safety disappeared. Lizzie was discharged after three sessions of EMDR with significant improvement and evidence of good recovery, therefore reducing risk of negative impact in the future for her and her children.

Several weeks after she had completed her treatment, and having had her baby girl Enfys, Lizzie said: “I feel unbelievably better after this pregnancy and birth compared to how I felt after my experience with my first child when there wasn’t any support available to me; even with the added distress of having a miscarriage, the pressures of Covid-19 restrictions and not being able to see my family.

“I feel happier, more confident and much better in my mental health. I feel fully recovered. The service was brilliant!”

Referrals to the MMHS must be made by a professional such as a midwife, by emailing [email protected] or call 01752 431607.


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