‘I didn’t feel connected to baby while I was pregnant’

Rebecca Bowman from St Annes, who suffered postnatal depression
Rebecca Bowman from St Annes, who suffered postnatal depression
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Mum Rebecca Bowman was hospitalised with depression after the birth of her second child.

Rebecca was in such a bad place when she was pregnant with her son that she unable even to find the will to cook for herself or her family.

Chorley Hospital

Chorley Hospital

The 29-year-old and her newborn were taken into Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester where they were cared for. However it meant that Rebecca’s husband Colin, 36, and daughter had to make a three-hour round trip from

“My health visitor was the person who picked up on it,” said Rebecca “She knows what I’m like and she knew that I was out of character. With my first daughter I was very much like everything’s amazing whereas with my son I was more like, can I just go back to bed, can someone else look after him.

It is reasonably common for someone to get it for their second pregnancy. We are more prone to it.” Rebecca gave birth to her son, who is now 15 months old, in September 2016. She went into hospital in January 2017 where she stayed for about eight weeks. While Rebecca has now come out of hospital and is better able to manage her condition she is still receiving treatment.

“I just didn’t feel connected to my baby while I was pregnant,” she said. “I was starting to think about whether I still wanted the baby and if it was the right thing.

The Harbour in Blackpool

The Harbour in Blackpool

“Then when he was born I had attachment issues and I felt extremely low. It was going past baby blues which normally just goes on for a few days.”

She added: “I didn’t tend to be on my own with the children because I wasn’t fit to look after them. My mum would have them or I would have friends who would come over or my brother.

“I wasn’t fit to operate, I wasn’t even cooking for myself never mind cooking for the kids.”

The nearest unit specially designed to care for women, suffering with mental health difficulties, and their babies in Lancashire at the moment is in Wythenshawe.

“When I went into hospital at first there was a dip because you’re away from your family,” said Rebecca. “I was in Manchester so I only saw my daughter at the weekends and my husband a couple of times a week in the evenings.”

Rebecca said that news a new perinatal unit is coming to Chorley Hospital would make a huge difference to her family if she was admitted again.

She said: “It would make a massive difference. For one my husband works in Chorley. Also I would be able to have the support of a specific perinatal psychiatrist rather than a general psychiatrist.”

While she was in hospital Rebecca said the care she received was very good but really it was watching how other women were managing and improving that inspired her to reach a place where she was able to cope more.

“We had really good care. It was a controlled environment so we knew who was there or who wasn’t there.

“You can see mums a little bit further on in their journey and you can see them getting better.”

‘Our priority is to provide the right care at the right time’

A Lancashire hospital is to open one of only four brand new units in the country designed specially to care for mums struggling with mental health issues.

The ward at Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital will have beds for eight mums to stay with their babies at any one time.

The investment, worth thousands of pounds, comes as the creaking mental health provision across Lancashire has been under scrutiny.

Currently mums in Lancashire are forced to travel up to three hours or more in a round trip to get to the nearest such treatment in Manchester.

Bosses at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust say the new centre at Chorley Hospital is a step in the right direction, providing timely and accessible services to women accross Central Lancashire.

Lisa Moorhouse, head of operations for Mental Health at the Trust, said: “We are really pleased to have been selected as one of four providers in the country and excited to be a key part in transforming perinatal mental healthcare.

“Perinatal mental illnesses are a major public health issue with between 10 and 20 per cent of women developing a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. With this in mind it is extremely important that people have access to these specialist perinatal, mother and baby units.

“Our priority is to provide the right care, at the right time, every time and by this facility in Lancashire we are ensuring that women who are at risk of, or suffering from, perinatal mental illnesses are given appropriate support at the earliest opportunity.”

Lancashire Care Trust was the preferred provider, selected by NHS England, to provide one of the four new mother and baby units in the country. The unit will be a place where mothers with serious mental health problems can stay with their babies.

Plans to open the specialist facility comes as part of a £40m investment in care for women who are pregnant or who have newborns.

Each unit will provide care for women experiencing severe mental health problems or who may be at high risk of becoming mentally unwell in the perinatal period - during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child.

It will also take care of women with very serious conditions such as post-partum psychosis - a rare psychiatric emergency in which symptoms of high mood and racing thoughts, depression, severe confusion, loss of inhibition, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions set in, beginning suddenly in the first two weeks after childbirth. Hospital bosses say that the unit will enable treatment and recovery for mothers while allowing their relationships with their babies to develop.

It will be staffed by multidisciplinary teams across psychiatry, nursing and nursery care.

The North West was recognised as one of the areas in the country with particular access issues around its capacity for in-house care for mothers and babies.

The new units form part of a funding package of £365m pledged to improve perinatal mental health services over the next five years, with £40m allocated for the development of new mother and baby units from 2015-16 to 2018-19.

Opening dates for the unit are expected to be announced next summer.

Wider issues of mental health provision in Lancashire

Specialised mental health care in Lancashire is set to expand as investment is poured into the area with a new facility opening.

It comes as access to care for patients struggling with issues such as loneliness, depression or anxiety is placed under the microscope.

Critics say that because the county currently only has one flagship mental health hospital in Blackpool, long waits for treatment and long journeys for families to visit patients are commonplace.

The Harbour in Preston New Road, Blackpool has 154 beds. Overall Lancashire Care Trust, which is responsible for mental health care across the county, has 337 beds comprising dementia, older adult, psychiatric intensive care and acute treatment beds.

Now chiefs at the Trust have announced plans for a new specialist ward at Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital which includes 30 beds for adults aged 18 and over.
Six psychiatric intensive care beds for women will also be provided at the facility which will become operational in 2018.

Hospital bosses say that the extensive redevelopment at Chorley Hospital will transform ward areas previously used by the Care Trust, providing private bedrooms and bathrooms, therapy spaces and access to garden areas.

A spokesman at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “When The Harbour opened, the Trust moved off the Chorley site because the new wards at The Harbour offered a much better standard of accommodation for people than the wards at Chorley, which were no longer fit for purpose and in need of extensive refurbishment.

“This Trust has now secured investment to undertake this work which will transform the ward areas previously used by the Trust. The work will create a mental health inpatient service providing 30 beds for adults aged 18 and over and also six psychiatric intensive care beds for women.

“There is extensive mental health provision in Chorley and the wider Central Lancashire footprint to support people with mental health problems comprising community and short term crisis accommodation.

“In addition to the standard community mental health services offered, investment has recently been made to provide enhanced community services including a place of safety, an Acute Therapy Service, a Crisis House and a Crisis Support or Mental Health Decision Unit.

“Mental health beds are provided on a pan-Lancashire basis, therefore wherever you live you can access any of the Trust’s beds and this is primarily determined by clinical need as opposed to location.”

The Oakfield Unit, a mental health facility which had been based at Chorley Hospital, was relocated to The Harbour when it opened in 2015.

Since then Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle has campaigned to see a specialist unit return to Chorley Hospital arguing that it was unaccaptable that patients from Chorley were being transferred to Yorkshire and as far as London.

In 2015 it wasreported a mother was having to make a 220-mile round trip on public transport – at a cost of £100 a time – to see her mentally ill teenage daughter.

At the time Tara Palin’s 15-year-old daughter was suffering with severe depression and had been sectioned in a specialist unit in Middlesborough.

Mrs Palin, of Chorley, was able to visit her daughter once a fortnight for a maximum of two hours.

The unit was just one of two in the country - the other in Northamptonshire - suitable for caring for Mrs Palin’s daughter.

Because of the cost and distance of her journey Mrs Palin campaigned for better mental health services in Lancashire.

My Hoyle slammed the mental health care in Lancashire at the time as “simply inadequate”.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about mental health and understaffing.

Just weeks ago a vulnerable grieving widow died only days after being allowed to leave the Harbour.

Diane Balderstone, 59, was found dead at her Oak Avenue home in Morecambe just three days after being allowed to leave the mental health unit. An investigation is currently being carried out by Lancashire Care.

As part of the wider care for people battling mental health issues, crisis centre Willow House opened in Coppull in May 2017 to provide accommodation and support for people in a domestic environment with specially trained staff on hand.

A Crisis Support Unit at Royal Preston Hospital, which opened in July 2017, also provides six spaces where people can be assessed and supported.