Colleagues from different sectors across Powys who sit on the Powys perinatal mental health steering group have one shared goal: to ensure that all new parents and their families receive the right care, by the right practitioners and at the right time, irrespective of where they live in Powys.
It is estimated that between 10 and 20% of women will experience poor mental health during pregnancy (antenatally) or after the birth (postnatally) and men can suffer from poor mental health during this time too. After all a new baby means many changes for parents and it can take a while to get comfortable with this new role.
The parent-infant relationship is the key relationship for the infant during the early years and helps shape healthy brain development and patterns for future social and emotional relationships. This developing relationship starts during pregnancy, so it is really important that the parent is well and able to support and nurture their infant. A parent’s poor mental health may affect their relationship with their infant and if there are difficulties in this relationship it can result in a less-securely attached infant because babies need parents to respond sensitively and consistently to their needs. If a parent is not well enough to provide this then there can be longer term effects on the infant.
Over the past few years a number of people from statutory and third sector services have been working to develop services in Powys that support women experiencing poor mental health during pregnancy and after the birth. The steering group has representation from midwifery, health visiting, primary and secondary mental health services, third sector and service users and this partnership has been working to improve the support received by women and their families during this special time.
So the steering group has been keen to ensure that Powys services are set up to provide as much support as possible to new parents and their families. Since 2015, midwives and health visitors have been able to refer any women identified with moderate to severe mental health concerns directly to adult mental health services, and alongside this can offer structured ‘listening visits’ which have been proven to be helpful for those with mild to moderate mental health concerns.
In addition, the nursery nurse service can also provide some practical support, alongside community-based services such as Action for Children, Mind's Mums Matter groups, Bump to Buggy walks and Sblash a Sbri - water-based parent and infant sessions.
The best thing they can do is to talk to their health service provider – their midwife or health visitor in most cases. They will be able to support the family, and can refer and suggest other services that can also help.
More generally, the points below are general top tips from Health Visitors:
- Babies are born ready to relate, to build relationships and seek companionship.
- Skin to skin contact helps to build relationships.
- Good relationships help baby’s brain develop well.
- Babies know their parent’s voice(s) and find it comforting, so talk and sing to your baby.
- Engaging with your baby by talking, touching, looking at your baby helps to build your bond with your baby.
- Looking and gazing at your baby’s face helps your baby’s brain to develop well as well as building your relationship.
- Mirroring your baby’s expression and tone can help baby feel understood and manage their feelings.
- Babies communicate using expressions, tone, and body language. When you watch your baby you learn to understand them better.
- When your baby cries, think about what the crying may mean. Touch and comfort can soothe your baby.
- Try putting yourself in your baby’s shoes, babies need their parent to help learn to manage their emotions. Give them a loving, timely response.
- What your baby experiences, what they hear, feel and see, will shape their brain development, personalities and experiences of relationships and the world, so show them your love.
- How a mother/ father feels may impact on their baby – so their needs are really important too, they need support.
- Happy parents = happy baby.
- Breastfeeding is best for your baby, but however you feed, try to respond to your baby’s feeding cues and hold them close when feeding.
- Offering your baby lots of opportunity to explore and play will support their physical, social and emotional learning and development. Tummy-time is great for this when they are little.
- Providing a loving, calm and consistent home life will help your baby regulate and feel secure.