This week a report came out on the subject on mother and baby units (MBUs) in Wales. They currently have no MBUs and mums are being sent to England instead. This breaks my heart. When I was in the MBU my husband was able to come in every day, we were able to continue being a family through all the pain and stress of my being unwell. He rocked me whilst I cried, he made me smile when I thought I’d lost the ability to ever smile again, he gave me reassurance, love and hope. The first time I left the ward to walk the grounds, I did so clutching his hand. He was essential to my recovery. I can’t imagine trying to recover without the presence of the person who knows me and loves me most in the world. I also can’t imagine depriving him of that precious time with his baby. Mums aren’t the only ones who need to bond with their baby.
I know I was one of the lucky ones. Other mums in the unit I was in had traveled hundreds of miles across Scotland to be there, and were left without the constant support of their loved ones. The nature of highly specialised services is that some people will have to travel, but the idea that journey should be as far as from Wales to Manchester (as was offered to one mum) is ludicrous. Thankfully I’m not the only one who thinks so and today a report by the Welsh Government’s Children and Young People’s committee stated that the current care for women suffering from severe perinatal mental illnesses is ‘wholly inadequate’ and joined calls for an MBU in south Wales.
Presently, 60-80 women in Wales are treated in adult psychiatric wards, where their babies cannot stay with them. I was briefly admitted to such an environment because my daughter was over a year old, making us ineligible for MBU treatment, and I can say it was exceedingly distressing. It was the first time I had spent a night apart from her and that fact felt like a cold blade cutting through me. We had been together through so much, but now I had failed her, lost her. My husband brought her in, as I was fortunate enough to have a single room, but it wasn’t set up for babies. The MBU had toys and books and a dedicated playpen, plus wonderful nursery nurses who arranged splash play, weaning classes and baby massage. There were other mums who were facing similar challenges with their mental health and motherhood to talk to. All of this ensured I got well as quickly as possible and that I was equipped to be a (relatively) confident mum at the end of it. My time on the adult ward was cold, unfeeling and lonely by comparison, and it didn’t feel like an appropriate environment to bring my baby into.
In response to the committee’s recommendation The Welsh Government have pointed to their investment in community services, which are essential, but hopefully they will also see the need to go beyond that and provide the specialist in-patient care of a Welsh MBU. Surely Welsh mums deserve far better than ‘wholly inadequate’ care? I’d love to know if you think we need more MBUs, not just in Wales but in the whole of the UK.