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Sleep deprivation and mental health in mums

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
baby sleep, postnatal depression, puerperal psychosis
Todays' blog is a heavy read but it's something that I've wanted to say for a long time and it's something I feel ever so strongly about. I'd like to see a pivotal change within this generation. For the sake of our mums and their children it has to happen.

Reading an article on puerperal psychosis transports me back to all the mums whose experience of motherhood wasn't all overwhelming love and magazine perfect photos of a baby sleeping in his crib.

Instead I'm transported back to helping mums muddle through the daily brain fog of overwhelming anxiety, postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis. These are things we don't like to mention. Instead we sweep it under the carpet and pretend it doesn't happen.

As a Health Visitor in England we were trained in non-directive counselling and I offered this as a treatment therapy to mums with PND with and without anti-depressant therapy. It was such a forward thinking approach to healthcare and getting mums the help they needed quickly. The success rate was amazing and it turned things around quickly and was less expensive than psychologists and psychiatrists. We know that baby boys are at high risk if their mum has PND compared to baby girls. The outcomes for these babies was vastly improved. We visited in the home, once a week for an hour or so. And best of all we were FREE and employed by the health service.

Fast forward 12 years and I'm here in OZ. I'm looking at the support system for mums and families and I'm not liking what I'm seeing. I know a preventative health service within a health system is more expensive but what it does for families far outweighs any cost.

Recently a client of mine I've known from when I  first started Nurture Parenting experienced severe sleep deprivation with her second  child. It was so sad to see. She got scheduled and had to be separated from her baby as the public mental health system had no mother and baby unit. It made me very sad and very disappointed. It needn't be like this. There is a better way. Her family had her transferred to a private psychiatric hospital once she was considered well enough to not be scheduled. Finally after about 10 days she was reunited with her baby. The out of pocket expenses to this family who had private health insurance were prohibitive.

I tried to get help for the family, husband and older sibling, together with young baby in the evening at bedtime. There was no free or low cost service unless I wrote a letter stating the baby was at risk of harm. How wrong is that?  He wasn't at any risk of harm. His dad was caring for him. In the end I went to help them pro bono over a few evenings until her transfer.

I'm going to take you back 9-10 years ago when I was working in Melbourne in an outreach position as an Enhanced Home Visiting Nurse. I could get a bed and have a mum admitted to a mother and baby unit in a public health system. They had 3 mother and baby units. The waiting list was a week or less depending on severity. Where are these places in New South Wales? Why can this not happen here?  And remember I'm a nurse and I had the authority to do this. How different are our States in their approach to maternal and child health. I mourn for the English and Victorian health systems. Why does New South Wales not have these services and see the mental health of new mothers as a priority? Sleep school has a waiting list of 3 months. How many mothers are not getting the care they need and deserve because of lack of service provision? It's a sad reflection on society when we place the needs of mums and babies way down on our priority list.

I feel better now for writing this. I'm hoping to raise this issue with people who can change things and I'd like to see caring coming back to the very people who need it. Pass this onto your friends and maybe together we can make change happen. It so desperately needs to.

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