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Aberdeen mum takes up battle with maternal mental health

An Aberdeen mother has opened up about her fears that her ‘children would be taken away from her’ as she struggled with her mother’s mental health.

Hope Cawood, who lives in Blackburn, says she was in “desperate need of help” after struggling to cope following the birth of her two boys.

The 34-year-old, originally from Louisiana in the US, moved to London ten years ago while pregnant with her first son Sylas.

But she struggled to cope after suffering life-threatening maternal sepsis and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.

Hope received specialist support for her mental health at ARI. Image: Kenny Elrick.

The effects of her PTSD were also felt after the birth of her second son, Brenley, at ARI after moving to the Granite City in 2020.

The isolation of that year’s lockdown combined with the trauma and anxiety of the pregnancy period left her suffering despite their successful birth.

‘I thought they were going to take my children away’

Now Hope has opened up about how a lack of understanding of maternal mental health can leave mums with a mountain to climb during and after pregnancy.

She hopes to shed light on the invisible battle that expectant mothers face.

Hope said: ‘It took over a year after birth for me to finally realize that I desperately needed help. I was ashamed of the feelings I had.

“People kept telling me, ‘At least you’re alive and you have a healthy baby, there’s no reason to feel the way you feel.’

“I felt like I should be fine and denied that I was so sick.

“I was afraid that my children would be taken away from me because I wasn’t coping well and I was afraid to get help, so I stayed quiet, which was quite easy because I didn’t have face-to-face contact. -contact with healthcare professionals.

“It’s okay not to be okay, and my advice to all women who are going through a hard time is to speak up.

“Don’t suffer in silence, there is help.”

New ‘Hope’ for Mom’s Mental Health Care

Hope explained how she was helped by a perinatal mental health midwife and received cognitive behavioral therapy as part of her recovery at Foresterhill.

She is now studying at the University of Aberdeen and in her first year for a certificate in counseling – hoping to help other mothers in the same position.

Working together to end the stigma of mental health during pregnancy, Hope has partnered with SIGN, part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, which is committed to improving standards of care in the UK.

The two have now worked together to publish new guidance for NHS nurses that will help combat the problem, as well as an app and online toolkit for mothers.

The guideline also included input from patient groups, support groups and women who have been pregnant and given birth.

The new guideline makes three recommendations to healthcare providers:

  • Screening should take place in all women in the prenatal and postnatal period for possible depressive disorders
  • Women who show symptoms of a perinatal mental disorder should have access to appropriate treatment, for example cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Urgent mental health assessment should be carried out as a priority for women at risk of suicide.

The Right Decisions: Health & Care app can be downloaded from the Apple or Google app store and the guidelines can also be viewed online here.

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