Local mum urges others to know the signs of perinatal mental health

A Leeds mum and local mental health experts are sharing their insights and guidance as part of a region-wide campaign to increase awareness of perinatal mental health problems.

Perinatal mental health problems occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child. It affects up to 20% of new and expectant mums and covers a wide range of conditions.

Sadif Najmi, who lives in the Roundhay area of Leeds, expected her sixth pregnancy to be a similar experience to her previous babies. It wasn’t until the later stages of her pregnancy that Sadif was faced with an unexpected period of anxiety and panic attacks. She said: “It was a very distressing time and it was so out of the blue. This kept happening until it reached the point where I went to A&E. I couldn’t stop crying or control how I was feeling.”

Sadif Najmi

During this hospital visit, medical teams were quick to identify Sadif’s symptoms and referred her to the Perinatal Mental Health Service at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Sadif added: “Being referred to this service changed everything for me. I was immediately supported by a team of professionals who understood the conditions and explained to me that what I was experiencing was treatable. Through counselling and medication I was in a much better place when my daughter Rumaysa was born.”

Sadif now works closely with the Perinatal Mental Health Service at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LYPFT) as a Volunteer Peer Support Worker to help raise awareness of perinatal mental health within diverse ethnic communities. She is also actively involved in the Diverse Mums Group.

The group was launched in September 2020 with an aim to reduce health inequalities by creating a safe space for pregnant women and new mums from diverse ethnic backgrounds to talk about their health and well-being, share cultural experiences and break down barriers to help normalise mental health.

“Experiencing the care and support of the Perinatal Mental Health Service has shown just how valuable the service is for local people. This is my opportunity to give something back and say thank you to the amazing team.”

Bal Dosanjh

Bal Dosanjh, Clinical Engagement, Access and Inclusion Coordinator for the Perinatal Mental Health Service at LYPFT, said: “We want more mums, families and friends to be aware of perinatal mental health issues and this campaign is helping us reach people and let them know what the signs are and most importantly, how they can get the help they need. Being a mum can be difficult, but coping with perinatal illness can be twice as hard.

“If left untreated, mental health issues can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman, child and wider family. Part of my role is to engage with local diverse communities and break down those barriers to help people realise that it can happen to anyone.”

The Perinatal Mental Health campaign is being spearheaded by the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership and will be running until the end of September. As part of the campaign a raft of advertising measures are being used on social media, bus shelters and signposting information to the GP, health visitor and midwifery services that can help.

Dr Sara Munro, CEO Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Autism; and CEO for Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our campaign is designed to raise awareness in all communities and especially in poorer areas and among people from ethnic minorities as we know these women often suffer in silence in spite of help being available. We want women and their families to feel less concerned about stigma and realise that it’s not uncommon to not feel ok when you’re pregnant or have just had a baby and to know how to access help and support.

“We have services all over West Yorkshire and Harrogate so our message to women is – speak to your GP, your midwife or your health visitor about how you’re feeling and they will be able to help you without judgment.”