Pregnancy in Mind is a programme for expectant parents who are between 12 and 26 weeks into their pregnancy. It’s a mental health service for mums and dads who are experiencing, have experienced or have been identified as at risk of developing low to moderate levels of anxiety and depression.
The service has been running in Swindon since September 2015. Parents can be referred by any professionals who are working with the family, or they can self-refer by contacting the centre. As long as they can get to Swindon Service Centre, we don’t mind where they’re from (so ideal for parents from Cheltenham who can travel.) The sessions are for two hours, every week for six weeks.
So, how does it work? By beginning to understand their feelings and the triggers, parents begin to employ strategies which help them clear some space in their heads and organise and manage their thoughts. Mindfulness exercises encourage parents to settle into the group and focus their mind.
Once parents have mastered these exercises and decided which work best for them they can be practiced anywhere at any time – no one will give you funny looks for breathing!
The groups are purposely kept to a maximum of eight families. By keeping the group numbers small it is hoped the participants will not feel raised levels of anxiety about coming along. I can really get to know the parents and build open and trusting relationships.
Personally, I feel very privileged when mums show trust in us, and feel safe to share their thoughts and anxieties with the group in order to understand and work through them. I’m very proud that the team has been able to create this ethos.
Ultimately, the programme aims to improve the long-term outcomes for the unborn baby. I love to see mums begin to accept what they’re feeling is ‘normal’.
The expectant mum will be supported to learn how to manage her anxieties, which will hopefully improve her ability to tune into her baby, develop mindfulness, and form and maintain a loving and respectful relationship with her baby.
Lauren completed the Pregnancy in Mind course when pregnant with her first baby, Grace. She said…
“My midwife directed me to the service because I suffered from anxiety relating to my pregnancy, which I quickly found out was completely normal.
“Soon after being referred, I was contacted by a member of the NSPCC team. I can honestly say that Jan was the most helpful professional I spoke to throughout my pregnancy. She explained everything clearly and understood the anxiety I was experiencing.
“I then was booked in for my first session, which I had mixed emotions about. It was a very scary experience being contacted by the NSPCC, as you feel you have done something wrong – we always associate the NSPCC with the adverts and appeals we see on TV.
“I turned up to the session with my husband and was greeted by two PIM facilitators who were so welcoming and understanding. Then it came to meeting the other mums – they were BRILLIANT! It was so relieving to be in a small group with people that knew exactly how I felt.
“The groups were structured with a theme every week, but we were always told it is our group and if we went off on a tangent it was absolutely fine. Within the sessions we had mindfulness and active relaxation, which are designed to focus the mind and allow you to only focus on the present. This was great during pregnancy. I used to (and still do) get my husband to talk me through the techniques especially when things get stressful, which with a baby, they do!
“The sessions were a great way to relax and to discuss things with other mums and professionals without feeling judged and being listened to.
“I cannot explain how much this service has helped me and my family. I will definitely by using this service with my next pregnancy. I also would like to say to all mums thinking of joining PIM, it is so worth it. Don’t be put off by the fact it is run by the NSPCC, even if you go just for some ‘me’ time, you will be thankful.”
Victoria came to Pregnancy in Mind after falling pregnant a year after she suffered a miscarriage. She said…
“Have you ever been talking to someone, and realised that they aren’t really listening at all?
“The first thing I noticed at my Pregnancy in Mind group was that the group leaders actually listened to me, heard what I was saying and, most importantly, cared. They gave me eye contact, they responded with sensitivity, kindness and most reassuringly, many times, with empathy.
“I was one of many mothers to be; overwhelmed with joy and excitement at the prospect of meeting my baby but extremely anxious that I would not be able to keep my baby safe and healthy whilst I was pregnant.
“I was referred to PIM by my community midwife, mainly due to the fact that I had suffered from anxiety for the vast majority of my life. Another factor which increased my anxiety was the miscarriage that we suffered almost exactly a year before I became pregnant again. I had become obsessed with checking that I was not bleeding.
“On going to PIM I immediately felt comfortable. I’d made a regrettable fuss about the timings not fitting outside my working hours and had to be persuaded that this was more important – anxiety does funny things to you!
“One of the best things about PIM was meeting other mothers who were going through similar things to me. The most important lessons that PIM taught me were that keeping calm, being honest about my feelings and finding relaxation techniques to use at times of high anxiety (or anytime actually!) would help me, my baby, my husband and my family to enjoy my pregnancy.
“After finishing the course, I found it incredibly special and heart-warming that the leaders of the group continued to support me via phone calls and when seeing me in the street.
“I did, sadly, experience quite severe postnatal depression after the birth of my beautiful son, Rowan, now seven months old. Once more, the PIM team were on the phone to me, offering yet more support and inviting me to follow up sessions, called Babies in Mind.
“They have been a hugely valuable source of support to me, my husband, my family and to Rowan.
“I feel so lucky that my wonderful midwife referred me to the NSPCC and that my area had these resources available. I hope it goes on to spread nationwide.”
A Guest Blog from Catherine Albert, NSPCC Pregnancy In Mind Service Co-ordinator
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