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Marce Society

Today (17/09/15) Cocoon was thrilled to attend the UK and Ireland Marce Society meeting in central London.  It was a packed agenda, with the latest research in perinatal mental illness, parent – infant interactions, risk factors and treatments.  Marce is the oldest and most respected research organisation in this field, and the meeting attracted leading professionals from across academia and clinical practice.
The various sessions could loosely be grouped into: risk factors, impacts, and treatments.  A selection of the more accessible presentations are summarised below.
Overall, it was a fantastic day of learning and fellowship.  Connecting with other peer support charities over lunch was a particular highlight, as was finding other people keen to help with a future anti-stigma campaign, particularly from an ethnic minority background.
Cocoon hopes to attend many more Marce events in the future, and continue to learn and grow from absorbing this latest research and vast clinical experience.
Risk factors
Dr Rima Lamba gave a fascinating talk on her doctoral research into migrant Pakistani-Muslim women’s experience of PND.  Her talk brought home the impact that cultural and psychosocial factors can have – both in the illness, and its treatment.
Katie Hazelgrove and Alessandra Biaggi summarise their PhD project, an extensive study of risk factors for postpartum psychosis.  The “markers” they described included brain factors, stressful or traumatic life events, hormones, inflammation, “social cognitive” evaluation and neurology.
We heard a fascinating report into the incidence of “tocophobia” which translates into a fear of birth, and pregnancy.  This has been under recorded and under researched, but is slowly becoming more understood.  It is thought to occur in up to 1 in 10 women.  Women with previous birth trauma or still birth are known to be at much higher risk (of “secondary” tocophobia).
Both Dr Alain Gregoire and Dr Trudi Seneviratne gave talks on the measurement of patient outcomes in the perinatal field.   This included he new “POEM” method: Patient-rated Outcome and Experience Measure.  Look out for a survey form coming to a clinic near you!
Lauren Capron told us of her investigative work into antenatal depression and anxiety and impacts on the function of the placenta.  She has found a relationship (as measured by the “HPA axis” or stress hormone response mechanism), but only in a Caucasian sub sample.
Treatments and Service Improvements 
Cheryl Adams, from the Institute of Health Visiting, gave an update on their Perinatal Mental Health Champions project.  They have now trained almost 600 health visitor champions, in a cascading “Train the Trainer” model.  Their perinatal mental health training modules are available freely online, on the iHV website.
Louise Howard gave a comprehensive account of the updated NICE clinical guidelines (CG192) and how these might be implemented.  She was the chair of the guideline development group, as well as a practicing perinatal psychiatrist and a woman with lived experience of PND!
She summarised the guidelines as:
– identification of women with mental health problems
– comprehensive assessment of their needs
– integrated care plans
– treatment options
– assessment of the Mother – Baby relationship
– Information and advice.
She explained that there were many barriers to successful implementation of the guideline.  However, she also identified many possible solutions:
– Trusts performing “gap analysis” of their services
– NICE audit tools and implementation guide
– NHS England’s “Access and Waiting Time” programme (includes: a commissioning guide, perinatal IAPT, and new funding of £15M a year for 5 years)
– The Chief Medical Officer’s annual report
– A possible perinatal anti-stigma campaign.

The Art Of Self Care

We are very excited to announce Cocoon’s founder, Jessica, has been invited to speak at an upcoming maternal mental health event – on the subject of using creativity to promote wellness after perinatal mental illness.
The event is the launch of Elaine Hanzak’s new book, “Another Twinkle In The Eye: Contemplating a second pregnancy after perinatal mental illness”.  The audience will include many other peer support organisations, health care professionals, and “survivors”.
Jessica has always used creativity in her work at Cocoon.  Working with many different specialists, to offer the group activities such as art and music therapies, and complementary therapies such as massage and reflexology.  There is a “mindful” component to this work – joining in with a piece of music or a hands-on crafts project engages the brain right in the present moment, pushing out negative thoughts and ruminations.
There is also, for most people, a sense of positivity and pride in accomplishing something creative.  However simple the project, seeing it through to completion is always satisfying.
It can break down communication barriers too.  For a severely depressed or anxious new mum, it is sometimes easier to answer “what colour would you like your baby’s footprint keepsake to be?” than “how are you feeling today?”  Starting a conversation over a shared craft project can then open the door to further, more meaningful, discussion.
Finally, there is the worth in creativity in itself.  However the painting turns out, the act of painting it creates good, positive, feelings.  We hope that by joining in creative activities at Cocoon, the mums and their families go on to enjoy many years of crafts and creativity at home.
If you would like to attend the launch of Elaine’s book and hear our presentation please visit the booking page for the event: http://www.salford.ac.uk/onecpd/courses/the-perinatal-mental-illness-conference-and-exhibition-contemplating-another-pregnancy
There is a reduced rate of 25% available if you quote PERINATAL25  on the booking page.  There will be a limited number of even further reduced rate for parents and students being announced soon.

Cocoon Family Support: Who we are and what we mean by Peer Support

Welcome to our new blog.  A place where we can share our stories, support each other and get things off our chest.  This isn’t the voice of a professional, or a parenting expert.  Just fellow mums who have been there, done that, and gotten the sick-stained T-shirt.
We are all (the people behind Cocoon included) different.  We have different backgrounds, cultures, parenting styles… But we are thrown together by our shared experience of mental illness and our shared passion for helping others through it.  We’ve all “seen the other side”: we’ve known insanity, sleep deprivation, the depths of depression and the terror of anxiety.  But we have survived.  We have emerged from our illnesses not as super human mummy goddesses, but as survivors.  And knowing that we’ve been to hell, and survived, gives us a powerful voice and a determination to make sure no family gets lost in their illness.
Our philosophy here at Cocoon is simple: we will support you.  We cannot recover for you, take the medications for you, undergo the therapy for you, but we can walk with you and be a friendly companion along the way.  We can tell you what happened to us, how we navigated the same rocky path, but ultimately it is you who is doing the recovering.  We will be there to cheer you on and tell you what an amazing job you are doing: caring for a baby while fighting mental illness is one of the toughest experiences you can have as a parent.
We will do all this without judgement.  We are not here to tell you how to parent, or how to keep well – like we said, everyone of us is different.  We will strive to keep this open-mindedness and acceptance running throughout all of Cocoon’s activities and events.
We hope very much you will benefit from this, and join us at Cocoon for as little or as much support as you and your family need.