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Lancashire teacher shares her struggles with perinatal anxiety to help raise awareness during Maternal Mental Health Week

Posted on the 27th April 2022

As the Trust continues to raise awareness on perinatal and postnatal mental health conditions this week, the team sat down with Amy, a teacher from Ribble Valley to talk through her intense anxiety following the birth of her son during the height of the pandemic.

This is Amy’s story

Our little boy was born in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. After a very traumatic birth, my husband wasn’t allowed to stay in hospital with me due to restrictions. I struggled to get our little boy to breastfeed at first, so was expressing in hospital. At home, our little boy did eventually latch, but it was a real struggle at times. He then started to be violently sick after a feed due to me having an oversupply and this made me very anxious. I did get help from my amazing health visitor and a breastfeeding support group, but with covid there wasn’t as much face-to-face support as there would have been pre-pandemic.

After a month of breastfeeding, I switched to bottle feeding in the hope that this would make me less anxious. I felt guilty as I had really wanted to breastfeed and understand the massive benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. Bottle feeding helped my anxiety at first, but then our little boy started to refuse the bottle after he was burped. Again this made me extremely anxious. I was worried he wasn’t get enough fluid and would become dehydrated. This was something I was anxious about as without regular feeds, it could cause my baby to dehydrate.

I felt very anxious and worried for the first six months of my son’s life. Due to covid, I felt very isolated and unsure if what I was experiencing with my son’s feeding was normal. Not being able to speak to other mums at baby groups meant that I felt very alone. I found being in the house for long periods meant that I would feel trapped and I would overanalyse situations and this increased my anxiety further. When it did come to being able to go out and go to places, I found it very stressful. I found as our little boy was so used to being in a quiet environment when feeding, that taking him out and feeding him in public would be a real challenge. I would also wake up in the middle of night anxious about his feeding – was I making up the bottles wrong? What would happen if he didn’t drink enough the next day? I also found it extremely hard leaving our little boy with anyone who wasn’t my husband.

Following my experience, I spoke to the team at Ribblemere Mother and Baby unit and started to receive support from them in March 2021.

I was helped by so many wonderful professionals, a mental health practitioner, a nursery nurse, psychologist, occupational therapist and several doctors. They gave me the tools and confidence to visit places with my son and eventually go back to work. They visited very frequently at the beginning and this helped massively: I no longer felt alone and isolated. My contact with the mental health practitioner allowed me to talk through things, I always knew there was someone I could talk to about my worries. They had an overview of the help I was receiving from the other healthcare professionals and knew how to support me effectively. The sessions with the nursery nurse gave me the support I needed with weaning and they really helped me to form a strong bond with our son. The psychology sessions helped me to talk through my worries and to become more rational in my thinking. These sessions also gave me strategies to help ease my anxiety and by talking through situations it made me realise that I was doing a good job of looking after our little boy. I found going back to work stressful at the start, but with help from the occupational therapist, I started to prioritise things more effectively.

Going back to work has been a massive help, it reminds me that I also have a career outside of being a mum. It has really helped me to stop overthinking and overanalysing situations.

I owe so much to all the people that helped me during the hardest period of my life. I will never forget the care and support shown to me by people that I had never met before. They went above and beyond to help me get better and enjoy the time with our amazing little boy.