Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mums Matter

Mums Matter is a new project being run at two of the Mind centres in Powys – Brecon & District, and Mid Powys Mind in Llandrindod Wells. As the name suggests, the aim is to provide emotional support for new Mums “to manage the everyday, nurture themselves and dispel the many myths of motherhood.”

The project facilitators, Deborah Wilkie in Brecon (left below), and Tracy Lewis in Llandrindod (right below), told me more.

Tell us why you think there is a need for this project in Powys

Deborah: Whilst promoting this programme mums who have had their babies have stated “they wished this sort of course was available to them after they had given birth to their children." They also said “there was no additional support to help mums apart from their GP or health visitor to help them go through such a huge life-changing experience. They felt alone and that they were the only ones suffering and could not fully be honest in how they were struggling with their feelings of anxiety and worries, and feeling very low and isolated”.

Tracy: Powys has the worst access to services and facilities of all 22 principal areas of Wales. There are 30% of households living in poverty in rural Wales. Because of this women can become isolated after childbirth. The stresses of becoming a new mum and all the different advice and opinions can lead mothers to become anxious and worried.

Has Mind rolled out Mums Matter elsewhere in Wales and if so how has it been received?

Deborah: This is the first time this type of support and programme has been rolled out in Wales and we are delighted that Powys has this great opportunity and is leading the way in Wales.

Tracy: This project has been designed by mums with postnatal anxiety and depression who live in deprived and rural areas. The pilot was held in Cardiff and was received very well. Mid Powys Mind is very happy to be rolling this programme out for mums in Mid Powys.

What about motherhood can be different in a largely rural county?

Deborah: Powys is the biggest rural county in Wales covering 2000 square miles with many small country villages and small towns so accessing essential health and social care services for mothers and families can prove to be very difficult especially if they have no transport. The local transport can be infrequent or not at all, leaving a lot of mums and dads trying to cope and do their best for their babies and children. Motherhood can be lonely in these small villages and towns as the population can be very small. They may be the only young family in the area and accessing baby/toddler groups will mean travelling to another area.

Tracy: There are a lack of effective support networks in Powys as its geographic and social isolation is an ongoing problem, mums sometimes don’t feel they can ask for help as it looks like they are a failure in small communities. Many women can struggle to hold on to their identity once becoming a mother.

Tell us about some of the myths around motherhood, and how women can feel in the early days

Deborah: Social media, magazines and TV can portray life is perfect whilst pregnant and after giving birth and concentrates on images of the ideal ‘perfect’ mum. Even when a mum has a quick snapshot of a mum pushing a pram in the street and that mum can seem like they have “got it together” and look like a ‘perfect’ mum in the mind of the viewer, it may not be the case. This programme gives evidence and demonstrates that that’s not the reality and we discuss what motherhood is really like for them. Learning being a ‘good-enough’ mum is essentially a healthy way of bringing up children as it instills realistic expectations in children and teaches them to cope with uncertainties in our realistic world.

Tracy: There are many myths in motherhood and these can lead to self-stigmatising behaviour and negative perceptions of one's self-worth. This can affect any mother of any age and any walk of life.

When women hit a certain age they can feel the pressure to have a baby without being mentally prepared. When you have your baby a mother does not always have the immediate rush of love that you are told you will have as this can be slow to build and can come over time.

There are harmful myths surrounding working mums that they are neglectful and guilty mothers which can add to the pressure and create anxious feelings.

Mums Matter aims to show these women that they are not alone with these feelings, and provide them with the tools they need to overcome these pressures.

How do new mums find out about the project and join in? And when is your next course?

Deborah:  I am running another programme in September 2017 in Brecon during the school term. It's an 8 week course (2 hrs a week) for mums and I provide a crèche for your baby (if you require it) in the same building of the course. If you like to find out more don't hesitate to contact me for a chat….. call or message/text Deborah on 07487 239 150 email Or ask your health visitor or GP to refer you.

Tracy: The next Mums Matter programme I am running is on the 12 September in Knighton Leisure Centre, 1 till 3 every Tuesday for 6 weeks. There is a crèche available which is run by qualified members of staff. If you would like to book onto this programme please contact me on 07960 271 696 message or text, or you can email me on

What kind of support can the sessions provide? 

Deborah:  Being a mum is a very busy role and can be overwhelming and the need to look after yourself is important so we spend time looking at that in a friendly group of mums sharing similar experiences. We explore what it’s really like being a mum and all the feelings of anxieties and worries that go with the role. We look at many coping tools to manage the everyday, looking after yourself and feelings such as negative thoughts and guilt. The aim is to help mums feel much better and more confident in themselves and trusting their own skills and decisions in their role as a mother.

The programme also offers a confidential supporter session for partners and significant others who supports mum, raising their awareness to postnatal depression and anxiety and exploring ways they can support the mum.

Tracy: The sessions will introduce mums to tools such as breathing techniques, meditation and ideas that will help with wellbeing as well as providing an opportunity and space for mums to come together and talk about their experience and feelings. Those in the group, with the help of the Mums Matter Facilitator, will be able to support each other with the changes that becoming a mum demands, and they will realise they are not alone.

There is also a supporters' session for family and friends to attend if they wish.

If appropriate and timely support isn’t provided to new mums what could happen? 

Deborah: I see this programme acting as a prevention as well as an intervention of support to help mums feel stronger in their own well-being. This programme has already prevented some mums going onto anti-depressants and their postnatal depression escalating. I am coming across mums who are still suffering from anxiety and depression some years on from when they first started suffering with these symptoms after giving birth to their child. This programme may have prevented these symptoms escalating into a longer-term health problem so timely intervention is of the utmost importance to mums in their postnatal period. Also, fathers can suffer with postnatal depression too. This programme raises mental health awareness and knowledge also to fathers and carers and other family members.

Tracy: If mums don’t get the support in which they need then depression can take hold and mothers can withdraw completely from all social activities and services that they may need and all relationships will suffer.

If it became clear a mum was experiencing severe postnatal depression what would happen? 

Deborah: I would in discussion and permission from the mum share this information with her GP and health visitor and encourage a referral onto the Community Mental Health Team where there is a specialised perinatal team. I would also refer onto any other services which meets any other identified needs.

Tracy: I would refer that mother back to her health visitor and doctor and help her to seek the professional help that is needed and discuss any other pathways that would help her with her recovery.

Does Mind support continue once the 6/8 week course is complete? Alternatively, what support networks can you recommend to mums? 

Deborah: The mums are encouraged in the 7th & 8th week; which is more of a social meet up with their babies to discuss how they are going to continue supporting each other. My mums from the first programme formed a very strong trusting bond and have a message group chat and plan to set up their own baby/toddler group in September for mums who are experiencing very similar experiences so they can share the realities of being a mum in a supportive, ’good-enough’ environment.

I also refer on to other services for continued support if needed such as counselling, Action for Children amongst others. They also have an information pack. I am also still there for mums to contact me post-programme for any further additional information and sign posting if needed.

Tracy: After 6 weeks there is another meeting in 3 months for the mums to come together with myself to see how everyone has been getting on. There is also a questionnaire to fill out to see which tools the mums have been using and if they are still in contact with each other. Mid Powys Mind also offers counselling, arts and crafts, training and a volunteer programme with information about the Mid Powys Mind services. There are also lists of playgroups, parent and toddler groups and other agencies which the mums may need in their packs.

Tell us what a “Mums Matter Powys” looks like to you personally 

Deborah: I am so thrilled that Brecon Mind has had this opportunity to deliver this programme and I feel privileged to be part of it and I get the opportunity to work with so many wonderful mums. The mums I have worked with so far are amazing and inspirational. I hope this 2 year project can demonstrate to funders and the local government that this is an essential part of the perinatal service provision in Powys for mums and their families.

Tracy: Mums Matter is a programme running in different areas in Powys to help mums who are feeling low and anxious and need some support and tools to help with their mental health at this moment. Mums can talk openly and honestly about how they are feeling without being judged and will feel excepted and not alone.

What are the main challenges of the role? 

Deborah: I hope the word gets about across all the services in Powys that play a part in supporting mums in their prenatal and postnatal period of their lives. I have done my best promoting and advertising and attending service team meetings to-date but there is still lots to do on that.  Also, I would like to see an increase in the referrrals from GPs, I hope they can see and get to know of the benefits. I do get some self-referrals but I think it’s also important individuals know they can refer themselves and contact me direct for a friendly chat to find out more about the programme.

Tracy: Finding available rooms and crèche space and also letting mums know the programme is running and how it can really help.

Tell us about some of the most rewarding work you have done at Mind so far

Deborah: The biggest reward I had was hearing and seeing the progress and achievements of the mums who attended the first programme in believing in themselves as a mum; they were even using the ‘I am’ statement. They left a lot stronger individuals and even accomplished drinking a ‘hot cup a tea’ daily which I was very proud of. Their feedback is the most rewarding and they did it themselves I was just there!

Tracy: Running my first group and seeing the mums bond and support each other whilst learning to grow in confidence was very rewarding.

When you are not working for Mind, how do you enjoy spending your time?

Deborah: I’m a mum of 2 grown up children and a grandmother of 3 gorgeous little ones so my days of running around teenagers have been replaced by choosing when I want to run around after my grandchildren. This has left me with some spare time to indulge in walking coastal paths and cycling. I love our wet and windy land and try and spend most of my time out in it. My husband and I share a passion for classic cars and go on many classic rallies with our restored classic car. My vocation is practicing Reiki in my other spare spare spare time! I love my cats and peace and quiet when I get it, that might mean me just hiding in a corner somewhere for a while.

Tracy: I am a farmer’s wife so I enjoy getting outside and helping my husband and 3 boys on the farm. I also enjoy playing netball and badminton and having a glass of wine with my friends. 


Feedback from some mums who have attended Mums Matter: 

  • Amazing idea and support for those who are worried, feeling down or suffering with post-natal depression. There is no need to suffer in silence, there are others too. It was the best thing I ever did. 
  • I feel more confident in myself and around people. 
  • I could moan and share my feelings without judgment and in a safe place. 
  • The creche gave me time to myself to focus on the course… I feel so much better! 
  • I never left my baby before, was nervous but he enjoyed it and I enjoyed my space and new-found friendship with lovely mums, felt less alone & more myself. 
  • I loved how the course gets you to look at being a realistic mum and not have to stress about being a perfect mum all the time. It’s okay to be a ‘good-enough’ mum! 
  • I’ve decided not to take anti-depressants as this course has made me feel so much stronger, confident and happier… I now walk my dog regularly, relax with colouring and drink HOT tea!! 
  • The course helped me put things into perspective, the past & the present. Things make more sense now. My heart melts now when I see my kids and that’s not happened in a long time.

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