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Raising awareness of birth-related trauma

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Colleagues at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust and midwives from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were joined by Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie to raise awareness of the help available for those who experience birth-related trauma at Stroud Maternity Unit.

It is estimated that around 1 in 25 women experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following childbirth, and around 1/3 of women find some aspect of the birth traumatic, and many women’s symptoms of trauma go unrecognised by both professionals and the women themselves.

The new Maternal Mental Health Service provides support for new mums with moderate to severe mental health difficulties as a result of their experience of giving birth. This includes those with PTSD, fear of birth, stillbirth, multiple late miscarriages, loss of a child in the neonatal period as well as the provision of preconception advice for those who need it.

The new service has been running since March and aims to educate women and professionals on recognising the impact on a difficult traumatic experience.

GHCNHSFT’s Perinatal Service Clinical Implementation Manager, Trish Butler said: “Our multi-disciplinary maternal mental health service team includes a psychological therapist, nurse practitioner, peer support worker, and midwife.  We are excited because for the first time we have a dedicated midwife to better link up maternity and mental health services. In addition, the service has employed a woman with lived experience of mental health-related to her birth to support women in a similar situation.

“We know many women suffer in silence before seeking help for their mental health and that birth trauma is unique to each individual and their experience of birth. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of postnatal depression and anxiety; but it can be treated and we’re here to help”.

Another important part of the service is the support the team provides for the partners of those who have given birth and to recognise if they have experienced trauma. Birth-related trauma doesn’t just affect the person giving birth and the team proactively encourage birthing partners to seek support through our Let’s Talk service or through their GP.

As part of the launch, MP Siobhan Baillie found out more about the development of a poster which the team has produced with people who have had experience of mental health difficulties as result of their experience of giving birth. She said: “I’m really pleased and proud about this service because I know it will help a lot of new mums who have experienced a difficult birth and need support.

“The transition to parenthood is already one of the most stressful thing any family can go through.  It is therefore a big boost for new mums to know that there is a team in place right here in Stroud that will be able to help.  

“I experienced difficulties during my daughter being born which meant I had to leave the Stroud Maternity Unit and go to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital to give birth. Both teams were absolutely magnificent and I could not have done without them or the aftercare from our local midwives and health visitors but I still had terrifying days.  Giving birth can be magical and traumatic so having specialist expertise locally is fantastic”.  

Dr Mala Ubhi, GP Clinical Lead for Mental Health at NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Many women find the experience of childbirth emotionally traumatic. It can’t always be prevented, but recognising the signs and seeking support as early as possible can really help.

“Thanks to our local mental health and maternity services working more closely together, this new service brings together clinicians who can offer vital expertise and care to women who have experienced birth trauma, helping to ensure that that the signs and symptoms are spotted early by both women and their healthcare professionals.”

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