Mental health is important for any new mum but even more so for mothers of premature babies. TinyLife is using money raised by National Lottery players to support parents of premature babies. We talked to Laura Moreland, a Belfast mum who struggled with postnatal depression.
Laura was already mum to two little boys when she discovered she was carrying little Amy. Her due date was mid-September 2015 but at 31 weeks Laura’s waters broke. She was given steroids to help the baby’s lungs but just two weeks later, Amy had to be delivered on July 30.
“Amy was 4lb 8oz and grey when she was born,” says Laura. “She was on oxygen and to be fed through a tube. At one stage the doctors thought she had an infection so she even had to endure a lumbar puncture.
“You’re in this ward of new mums and their babies. It was heart-breaking to watch them and not even have Amy beside me.”
Amy was kept in for two weeks and two days. When she was finally discharged Laura thought life would get back to normal. But because Amy had been born so early, Laura couldn’t go out with her. Stuck in the house, depression creeped over her.
“I wasn’t coping and at times I thought I was losing my mind. Once you’re at home again there’s no specialist support yet you’ve so many questions. I’d had two relatively normal pregnancies so why had my body failed me this time? What had I done that Amy should end up with this start in life?” she says.
In desperation one night Laura went rifling through information packs the hospital had given her. She found leaflets about TinyLife, who use National Lottery funding to work with premature babies and their families.
“I rang them that afternoon and the next morning I had a support worker in my home! I cannot tell you the difference that made.
“I could talk to someone who understood. TinyLife suggested coming along to some of their groups to meet other families in the same boat.
“I also went back to my GP who has been fantastic so I was able to address my mental health. I know through my own work as a social worker that one of the biggest indicators for how a child will develop is the mum’s mental health.”
Alison McNulty, chief executive of TinyLife, says: “Every year 1,900 premature and sick babies are born in Northern Ireland. It’s an extremely worrying and difficult time for families.
“A recent report* showed that five out of seven neonatal units have no access to a mental health professional. Meanwhile, mothers of premature babies are 40% more likely to suffer from postnatal depression. Parental mental health can impact on the longer term outcomes for these vulnerable babies.
“TinyLife are part of a partnErship using £402,720 from The National Lottery Community Fund to meet that need. We’re working with Parenting NI and Aware to deliver mental health and wellbeing activities for parents in the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trust areas.”
Laura says: “Having a baby is no picnic. But all the things which are important for your mental health are hit 10 times harder when you’ve a premmy.
“Amy is now doing well, a picture of health. She’s just turned three and is full of mischief. Ours is a story with a happy ending – but other parents face tougher battles.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, TinyLife are giving those parents the support they need.
To learn more about TinyLife and their work, check out their website here: https://www.tinylife.org.uk/
*Report from Bliss and TinyLife, Northern Ireland Babies 2018 http://tinylife.org.uk/dloads/17071_bliss_northern_ireland_baby_report_aw_lr_single_pages.pdf