Prenatal Archives - PANDAS Foundation UK

#HGDay16 – My Story by Dee Hawke

I found out I was pregnant when I’d just turned 20. It wasn’t a happy occasion, I’d gone to a family planning clinic due to severe pains around my side that had been happening for a few days. I sat down and they asked if I was pregnant, “no way” I said. I had to do a pregnancy test anyway but laughed it off. The lady walked into the room with the test and said ” you’re pregnant- no doubt about it”.

HG Awareness Day 2016 Dee%27s Story Pic 3

With that I was sent to hospital with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. It took weeks to get my head around it. After 2 weeks of back and forth hospital appointments they confirmed my baby was in the right place and all was well.

Just as I was starting to feel ok about being pregnant I started feeling sick, very sick. Not just a bit of nausea this was severe sickness.

I went to my doctors and they told me it was morning sickness and told me to try ginger and acupressure bands.

After 5 days of not eating or drinking and with my sickness getting worse I went back and told him that ginger was ridiculous and the bands were even worse. He prescribed me an anti-sickness medication called cyclizine. I left feeling like they had listened and I was on my way to never being sick again.

How wrong I was. Read More


Thank you so much for writing such an honest and inspiring piece for us.

Looking back, do you think your husband may also have been suffering from postnatal depression?

While my husband undoubtedly had a hard time of my pregnancies, and the first few weeks of parenthood, I sometimes worry that most of his anxieties were caused by me. He remembers dreading coming home from work because he never knew how he’d find me, and I will always feel a sense of responsibility for those ‘ruined’ few weeks. Even now I think he gets a hard time of it, although we communicate so much more than I was able to in the beginning. That has certainly helped!

Did you ever speak to your midwife about your feelings of anxiety during pregnancy?

I remember having numerous conversations with our midwife during my first pregnancy, and it was her who referred me for help and introduced me to the counselling I went on to have. The second time around I saw two or three different midwives, and that dialogue became harder to open. I felt as though I was having to explain everything over and over again, even though I wasn’t really sure I could put my finger on what I wanted to say. I found the health visitor invaluable the second time round.

Do you feel that there should be more help and support for those suffering from antenatal depression and/or anxiety?

Certainly – even now postnatal anxiety and depression are seen as something of a taboo, and I know that I’ve certainly not been forthcoming in talking about it. You’re never quite sure how people will react. Until I suffered myself, I wasn’t even aware that antenatal depression and anxiety was possible. Surely pregnancy is a joyous time? That myth can lead to women feeling isolated, as they’re sure they’re not supposed to feel like that. Support at these points is absolutely vital to stop anxiety escalating.

I like that you’ve written “You are not postnatal depression”, but how did you learn to disassociate yourself from your illness?

It’s hard, because sometimes it becomes an excuse – I’ve had a bad day, but that’s okay because I have an illness. I think, for me, the most important thing was to not consider postnatal anxiety to be an illness, and also to focus on my children. I was determined that they shouldn’t suffer because I was having a bad day, and just thinking about how they might feel is a great way to pull myself back sometimes. ‘It’ just happens to be something hovering in the background, but it isn’t the heart and soul of who I am. Every day I wake up with a mantra – today will be a good day. Sometimes I’m confident enough to pull that off!

I too have struggled to come off medication, do you still have hope that one day it will be a possibility for you?

Oh yes. I was prescribed medication when my first son was still very small and decided early on that it wasn’t for me. I stopped taking it altogether and found I was able to control my anxieties on my own. The second time around has been harder – a little more of a roller coaster as I attempted to understand what would work for me. I didn’t want pills to control me, but I’ve learned to accept that they’re not altering who I am, merely how I cope under certain strains. I know that one day I’ll be able to control my own emotions, so I have no doubt that this is just a temporary solution.

What do you do during your dark days to try and lift yourself out of them?

I leave the house. I can usually tell quite quickly what sort of day I’ve woken up to, and so if I start to feel a little low we’ll head out to the park, or I’ll contact friends to try and arrange something. As long as the children are up and active, and enjoying their day, I think it’s okay if I’m having a bad day – their happiness is one of the best feelings in the world, and it’s infectious. Staying at home tends to be a trigger for anxiety, as I’ll feel guilty if I’m not up to doing much.

And finally, do you have a message for anyone who has not yet seen the light?

Just that it is there – honestly! Antenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression are so cruel, bringing you down when you should be on Cloud 9. The tiredness and range of new hormones and emotions never helps, but you need to understand that this isn’t going to be forever, and it’s okay to have dark days. They just make the good days seem all the more brighter. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help either – telling yourself that you’re suffering is one thing, but being able to admit that is a huge step forward.


Whenever the topic of having a third child comes up, whether it’s during a fleeting, “wouldn’t it be nice if…?” moment, or in response to a well-meaning friend asking if we’re going to be trying for a daughter to ‘complete’ our family, my husband’s response is always the same; “I couldn’t go through that again!” While those in our company will, more often than not, react with nervous laughter and shocked looks, the truth is that I can see behind his cheeky smile, and I know he’s only half joking. You see, my husband is hurting just as much as I have been, and still am; postnatal depression hasn’t just haunted me, but our whole family. When I briefly think how wonderful it would be to add another child to our family, or how much I miss being pregnant, the anxiety and depression that I felt while I was expecting both of our little boys, and the feelings of dread that I still get now, are enough to remind me that I’d only be trying to ‘get it right this time’, and that’s not fair on anyone. Read More


In the time that I have been a pregnancy Yoga teacher, I have had the privilege of teaching women from many different walks of life.

I am privileged to be witness to the stories they bring to class verbally and through their bodies. Personal histories and personalities are sketched out through breath and movement.

I often witness women push their bodies in a way that I suspect they must push themselves in life: striving to keep control, pushing to achieve, pushing to do more, and pushing to progress.

I hear of meticulously-planned births and witness anguish, guilt and pressure when births don’t go according to plan. I strongly believe in the importance of preparing for labor and birth, but think that the two words plan and birth don’t belong together.

Here’s why, and what you can do instead:

Birth plans encourage unrealistic expectations.

Weddings, birthday parties and IT projects are events that require planning and organization, not labor and birth. The idea itself is unrealistic as there is very little about birth that can be planned.

For a start, you don’t know:

When it will start

How long it will take

How you will feel

How you will respond

The unknown nature of this process can be deeply unsettling, but be cautious about making claims about what you will and will not do to appease any insecurity.

These types of refusals leave you little room to use your instincts to adapt and respond to potentially changing situations, and have the potential to leave you feeling vulnerable if the event does not go according to plan.

In planning an event like birth, there is the risk that you become attached to the process. If, however, you prepare by aligning your actions with strong intentions or preferences, you can more easily let go of the details of how it will happen.

Writing a plan doesn’t mean you’ve prepared for birth.

Writing a birth plan can become a very lengthy process ending in a detailed and precise five-page document. Or it can become an itemized list of things to do sitting between buy buggy, write birth plan, attend scan on 22nd.

Either way, preparation for birth doesn’t end once the details have been drawn out and/or the birth plan has been ticked off the to-do list.

How you can prepare for birth

Preparing for birth can be a deeply introspective process. It goes beyond making the choice between a home birth, hospital birth, drugs and no drugs, learning birthing positions and breathing techniques (all are important and have their place).

To prepare fully requires a deep and potentially uncomfortable self-examination.

What are your thoughts, fears and anxieties about birth? Why do they exist and where do they come from? How might this impact your experience of birth?

What are your thoughts, fears and anxieties about motherhood? How might this impact your experience of birth?

In everyday life, how do you generally respond when things are out of your control? How might this impact how you intend to give birth?

In everyday life, how do you generally respond to physical, emotional and mental intensity/pain? How might this impact how you intend to give birth?

Like life, birth has its own plan. We can try and fight the detours, but ultimately life gives us what we need. Are you okay with the notion that anything can happen to you at any time?

Writing down your preferences, and sharing them with the people who are supporting you, can be important and useful parts of the process.

Whatever way you intend to birth your baby, it’s important that you spend time asking yourself some of these questions. Not only will it help you mentally and emotionally prepare for labor and birth, but it can also help you manage the changes brought about in life by early motherhood.

I urge you to tread the path of self-inquiry, risking whatever it brings up. Once you’ve laid down your preferences, let go of your attachment to the process of birth, and follow your body and your instincts. Let the potential intensity, pain, craziness, chaos and beauty of creation take over.

Prepare to be forced to your extreme. Prepare to be blown away.

A word of warning: you may be opening a can of worms. This type of questioning and self-examination can be a huge undertaking, and ensuring you have the support of family and friends may help you to navigate the process. If you find yourself needing further help and support, please speak to your midwife or to your GP and/or contact a pre/postnatal charity of your choice.

Read More

Day 4 – Question #4

Question 4:

What will be done to improve the consistency of pre and postnatal mental health care throughout the UK?

CONSERVATIVE (The Rt Hon Grant Shapps) – Conservative

There certainly is too much variation in the system at the moment but the problem is we don’t have enough information about who is doing a good job and who isn’t. That is why we have asked the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University to develop a perinatal mental health outcome indicator for the NHS. This will be used to ensure we know how well hospitals are performing. This information can then be used to share best practice and learning and improve consistency throughout the country.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT (Norman Lamb) – Liberal Democrat

We want to make sure that wherever you are in the country, pregnant women and new mothers can get the specialist mental health support they need to keep them and their families safe and well. That’s why the additional £250m we have pledged over the next 5 years will be targeted at improving and expanding services, spreading good practice, improving staff training, and ending the postcode lottery that mothers currently face.

GREEN PARTY (Jillian Creasy) – Green

The Green Party would set national standards of care to make sure that no part of the country is left behind, but we would let local areas to work out the best way of achieving them, because we believe that health professionals are best placed to determine how they should work. Staff in the health service are tired of constant reorganisation which does not always listen to them as experts. Our substantial investments in mental health will make sure that it catches up with physical health in terms of status and funding by the end of the next five-year Parliament. We say five years because it will take time to train all the new staff which are needed. The Green Party is also completely opposed to the introduction of market mechanisms and privatisation into our healthcare services, which put service standards at risk and could mean the introduction of charges for more NHS services, as well as wasting money that could be spent on helping patients. We will fight for a fully publicly funded, publicly managed NHS, free at the point of use for all.

TUSC (Hannah Sell) – 

TUSCThere are nationwide inconsistencies in perinatal care and our approach would involve bringing all services up the standard of the best perinatal services in the country. We would support services to seek feedback from families of what they found helpful and supportive and assist services to act on the findings. Commissioners in areas where services are identified as lacking would have increased powers to draw on the necessary funding to improve things. Funding would be provided for professionals from across the country to meet in health conferences to have access to the latest research findings to further improve on existing perinatal services and to share best practice.

PLAID CYMRU (Heledd Brooks-Jones) – Plaid Cymru

Integrating health and social care in Wales would ensure consistency and cut bureaucracy across the board.

SNP (Shona Robison) – SNP

Health is a devolved issue in Scotland and local NHS boards are responsible for pre and postnatal care, including the mental health of mothers. The SNP Scottish government is committed to improving mental health in Scotland. That’s why £15 million is being invested in an Innovation Fund to look at better ways to deliver services and, as part of our proposals for higher health spending, will seek to increase this investment to £100 million over the next 5 years.
NHS Scotland keeps under review the range of community and specialist services that it delivers to meet the needs of women experiencing perinatal mental illness. The aim is to identify quickly those at risk and ensure access to appropriate and timely care, treatment and support.

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