I saw the story of Bronagh in the BBC news. When I watched it I cried.
Bronagh had epilepsy and after she became a new mum at the age of 21 she became depressed.
Having a baby can put any woman at risk of mental health problems. According to NHS.co.uk 1 in 10 women experience postnatal depression, so GP’s need to be on the look out. Sleep deprivation and anxiety also cause problems. PTSD, OCD and psychosis can also be a problem postnatally. Only recently Adele shared the story of her friends struggle with postnatal psychosis. (1)
Bronagh’s Mum talks about how Bronagh was told she couldn’t be left alone with her baby because of her epilepsy, because she was a danger to her baby. Because of this Bronagh wasn’t comfortable lifting or touching her baby.
This is tragic.
When I read this it made me very angry. Women with epilepsy may need extra support after having a baby, but to be made to feel like she was a bad mother and couldn’t touch or look after her baby is a completely inaccurate and destructive impression to give anyone with epilepsy, or any new mother.
Women with epilepsy can and do have babies all the time. Women with epilepsy are good mothers. I suspect women with epilepsy feel like they have to be 1000 times better than other mothers, because-personally I have found women with a disability feel continuously under scrutiny.
Epilepsy action provides information to women in the UK about pregnancy and how to care for yourself and a new baby. There is no reason why a woman can’t have or hold her baby, or enjoy being a mother. (2) Some things like washing baby are better done when your partner is at home for support and safety, so it must have been especially difficult and frightening for Bronagh to have so much negative reinforcement about her ability as a mum.
Bronagh asked for help from health care professionals postnatally. She didn’t receive the help she needed.
Sadly Bronagh took her own life.
Her story raises the importance of perinatal Care not just in epilepsy but in mental health. In the UK there are only 131 perinatal beds. There are none in Northern Ireland or Wales. This has to change.
As a woman with epilepsy myself I am no stranger to the problems we face in society such as prejudice, ignorance and lack of education.
Unfortunately lack of healthcare is an area which can only be improved by better government funded NHS facilities. I hope the money that has been promised by the government does go into improving this area of health care.
Having a baby should be the beginning of a new life not the end of one.