Friday, 26 November 2010

Postnatal Illness - who knows where to refer to and what's on your wish list?

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting my story and suggestions on supporting families affected by postnatal illness to a wonderful group of midwives, nursery nurses and health visitors just outside Preston, Lancashire.

I was invited to speak by the very efficient  and the venue was amazing Ribby Hall. . The setting and food was great and the touch of hot chocolate and strawberries coated in chocolate just before I spoke was really special! I hope I get booked to speak there again and would recommend it as a venue.

It was a trip down memory lane for me as this was the area where I was born and I grew up on the Fylde Coast. I recalled happy Sunday afternoons feeding the ducks at Wrea Green village and was just sad that the timing was wrong to have some of my all-time favourite Bonds of Elswick ice cream. I was told it is still available! 40 years on and I can still taste it! Mmmm!

One special thing about the evening for me was meeting a lady who had read my book around 5 years ago when she was in the throws of extreme postnatal illness. She contacted to me some time later to say how it had given her hope and her family. Her daughter is now 5 and although we have emailed over the last few years we had never met until last night! I feel humbled and priviledged to help people but her story also inspires me to keep on doing what I do.

I was also thrilled to have two other trustees (I am one) of a new Foundation for maternal mental health in my audience. It was the first time they had heard me speak! Watch this space on the Foundation ....

I am always impressed by the dedication of the professionals attending these sessions. They are there because they care about the families they are dealing with. However, in chatting to some of them I was told that in some areas their postnatal support groups are being the first things being 'cut'. This is both shocking and very, very short-sighted as in the long run untreated and unsupported postnatal illness can lead to years of mental ill-health for members of the family; relationship breakdown; child protection issues and in extreme cases - deaths. If this is happening (cuts) in your area please can you let me know?

Another situation which I uncovered was that experienced and dedicated midwives DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE WYTHENSHAWE MOTHER AND BABY UNIT!!!! This is a specialist unit on their doorstep and delivers excellent care. They admitted that if a lady presented with puerperal psychosis that they would not know whom to refer her to and because they are rushed off their feet, often they are even wary of asking how a newly delivered mother is feeling because if she answers negatively they haven't the time to do anything about it or how to help! I do not blame the midwives at all but 'the system' that is squeezing them so tightly. I have heard from many midwives who love their job but the pressures and reality that they are unable to be there for women as they should be is making them leave the profession. This is another scandal that has to be stopped.  Is it going to take the deaths of mothers and their babies before anything is done?

I am currently part of a group looking at improving maternal and infant mental health in the North West of England. I will do my utmost to represent the families in that area (and beyond) but I need to know some more details of what is or isn't happening out there and what you would like. Please leave comments here or email me at

Safe to assume I am angry and very, very concerned.

Elaine Hanzak


Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine
Thank you for a lovely evening at Ribby Hall. I am so glad we eventually met and I am sure we will keep in touch and meet up before the next five years has passed!
I was so inspired to see that you have not lost your passion and endeavour to help others who have suffered with post natal illness. You are a very special person and I thank you for all your support. If I can give you any support in your ever increasing campaign for improved services and understanding, you know where I am. Keep in touch, Love Louise xxx

Elaine said...

Testimonial from the evening is here:-