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The Rainbow Mother and Baby Unit, Chelmsford
The Rainbow Mother and Baby Unit in Chelmsford is a specialist 5 bedded unit. The unit provides mental health care and treatment for women during the late stages of pregnancy and up to one
year after the birth of their baby.

Having a baby can be a time of great joy but it is also a time of huge change for both body and mind. All parents experience these changes to their emotions which can affect their relationships and everyday living.
This can also lead to increasing feelings of stress.

The Rainbow Mother & Baby Unit aims to:
Deliver the highest quality of care to mother and baby in a safe, friendly and supportive environment.
Treat the mother’s mental illness as early as possible.
Keep mother and baby together to promote mother and baby bonding, confidence and development of a routine that can be maintained when at home.
Provide a therapeutic timetable that includes activities with group, individual, mum and baby and self-led activities.
Provide information and support to families and carers.
Provide partnership working between other professionals involved in the mothers care.

The Rainbow Mother and Baby Unit in Chelmsford received a three year accreditation from the Royal College of Psychiatrists Quality Network for Perinatal Mental Health Services (PQN) Accreditation Committee and is now recognised as a Centre of Excellence nationally. 

The Unit, run by North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEP), is a specialist inpatient unit providing mental health care and treatment to women from their third trimester of pregnancy and up to one year after delivery.  The service is for women who develop mental ill health during this time or have a pre-existing mental health condition. The baby is roomed with the mother wherever possible.

information provided by Essex University Partnership University (approved by [email protected]

More on Rainbow's National Accreditation

Rebecca's experience

I don't want to be here, I want to come home

I remember the day I arrived at the unit like it was yesterday.  Because I was transferring from one health authority to another I couldn't travel by ambulance (NHS politics) so the nurse, James and I travelled by taxi and Zachary and my mum travelled together in convoy behind us.  Looking back it was quite funny as we had no idea how to get into the unit as there are a few entrances to the different mental health wards so there was the five of us walking round the hospital site trying to get IN to the mental health ward, normally people try to escape! 

We were met by a nurse called Lisa who showed me to my room, it was the first one on the left hand side right by the main doors.  Lisa quickly introduced herself going over all the ground rules of the ward and then leaving us to settle in.  For the first time in days I felt hungry so I sent my mum and James off to find a fast food drive through while I unpacked and spent some more time with Lisa and met a few other nurses/staff.  

I felt like I was being admitted to prison, the rules were frightening.  No shoe laces, no cords of any sort ; dressing gown, wash bag with the pull strings, phone charger, hair dryer... the list goes on.  I was convinced that I would be there forever and they were not going to make me better.  


The first few weeks blended in to each other and felt like I was stuck in a routine.  I would wake up, go and have my meds at 9am.  Once a week I would have all my measurements done, blood pressure, eight etc and on Wednesdays I would have my ward review with my mum, boyfriend, ward psychiatrist and other staff.  Around that I would cry, sit in my room or in the main lounge and once in a while try and attend a group of some sort but in my head there was no point, it wasn't going to help me so there was no point.  At night I would have my meds, watch TV, have dinner, go through my night care plan for Zachary with the nurses then go to bed.  Around this schedule my mum, my boyfriend and his mum would make sure they were with me as much was humanly possibly. As the days past and we edged into December I saw other mums and babies come into the unit and then leave and I was still there I was convinced I would be in there for Christmas.  While everyone else was at home with their families having a great time I was the mad person in a mental hospital ruining everyone else's lives by being sick.  I just couldn't hear what the staff were saying.  "You will be at home for Christmas".  Even though I had managed a few hours out of the unit to go and register Zachary's birth I still didn't think I would be able to cope with going home as it seemed so far away from were I was but the staff in hindsight knew exactly what they were talking about.

Around mid-December a new mum and her baby were admitted.  In a strange way it's interesting when a new patient arrives because there is something to watch.  Spending all day and night in the same place is boring no matter how much people try to engage you in activities or conversation.  I listened a lot to the questions she was asking the staff and us, the other mums and it was like a script.  Everything she said, I had said.  Everything she had asked, I had asked.  Everything she doubted, I had doubted.  As much as it was terribly hard to see another mum going through the pain, heartache and worry I had been through it was as if the cloud started to lift and I could see so much better.  It may have been a complete coincidence that this coincided with the start of the medication kicking in but suddenly I accepted.

I accepted I did have something wrong with me.  I accepted it wasn't my fault and that I had done nothing wrong.  I accepted help with Zachary's care (I had been very reluctant to let anyone else do anything for him, even just watch him while I had a shower.). I accepted support from the nurses and staff and started attending groups and taking part in activities, even becoming a bit of a project manager when it came to the Christmas decorations! I accepted that I needed medication and that it didn't make me a bad or crazy person.  And best of all I accepted that I as getting better and I was going home for Christmas!!  It was just for a few days, but I was doing it!

The location of the unit being only a short drive away was a huge factor in my trips home for day release and the eventual discharge from the unit.  Knowing that I could get back there quickly if the depression and anxiety kicked in definitely helped me.   The only time I asked to go back early was because we had the ward Christmas decorations being judged and I had lanterns to finish!  We came 2nd by the way... the best Rainbow had ever done!  

By the time I left the unit at the start of January everything had changed for the better, the medication was working, my mind was less busy and I very rarely needed PRN medication, just my daily sertraline.  I didn't look how I wanted, my hair had grown out of control, my nails needed doing and my eyebrows were days away from becoming a uni brow but I felt like a new person.  I was still tired, but I felt braver, stronger, happier and much more relaxed.  Medication, time and rest were the foundation but acceptance was the key to my recovery and I accepted it was time to go home.  My handprint was the first one on the wall in the extension that was built while we were in the unit.  It felt so good putting my mark on the place that gave me back the amazing experience of being a new mum. I do miss the chatting though, the mums and nursing staff definitely love to chat!  

What my primary treatment entailed

Assessment of my needs and mental health issue.
A care plan which recorded the care I would receive while on the unit. This was reviewed regularly and agreed by myself with staff.
Weekly review of my treatment and progress.
Education on mental illness and medication.
Nursing time – 1:1 sessions with the unit nurses which allowed meto share my feelings and empower me in problem solving.
Therapeutic Activity which includes: Coping Skills Group, Cooking, Walking Group, Scrapbooking, Art Therapy, Relaxation, Sensory room and Mum and Baby groups such as messy play.
Community meetings to allow me, other mums and staff to discuss the ward environment.
Practical guidance and support on baby’s care and safe parenting.
Leave into the community which was built up gradually, from day leave to up to a week.

Therapies that helped me while in Rainbow

Dance therapy
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Art therapy
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Cooking therapy
Sensory Room
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Other therapies available


Walking Group

Baby Massage

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Talking Group

Group arts & craft

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Contact Details
Rainbow Mother and Baby unit
The Linden Centre
Puddingwood Drive

Visiting times:
Mon – Fri 16.00-20.00
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 10.00 – 20.00

01245 318629 or 01245 318630

If you need immediate help please call
The Samaritans on 116 123 or contact The Police on 999. Both from any phone, at any time.