Mothers’ experiences of perinatal mental health services

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Early Help Streatham Pilot Evaluation Lambeth Healthwatch
Early Help Streatham Pilot Evaluation
22nd July 2019

Mothers’ experiences of perinatal mental health services

mother holding infant

Published 02/7/19

Investigating the experiences of mothers in Lambeth

Between September 2018 and May 2019, we explored the experience of 18 mothers from Lambeth who had mild to moderate mental health problems during pregnancy and into the first year after the birth of their child. We also spoke with 12 health and social care professionals about their confidence to support mothers and their knowledge on the relevant services mothers can access.

>>Read the full report here.<<

Our research found:

  • The identification of mental health problems does not happen quickly
    picture of a mother holding her baby

    Mothers reported feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.

    enough, and it varies considerably for each person. This can be down to a lack of confidence of both the mother and the professional to discuss mental health conditions. The findings showed that in some cases, the mother’s condition is being dismissed as hormonal and normal, which stops early identification.
  • Apart from four with pre-existing mental health problems, 14 mothers said that they developed mental health conditions after the birth of the child. They reported feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.
  • Having a trusting relationship and access to informal social support play an important role in coping with mental health conditions. Mothers associate their ability to cope with being a part of social groups, both in person and online, where they could share their experience with other mothers. Social groups, for three mothers, also paved the way for them to build confidence in talking to their family about what they feel and having the courage to ask for help.
  • It appears that there are very few relevant services that are known to professionals and mothers.

From this research we proposed four recommendations

The recommendations are to be addressed by local hospital trusts, maternity services, commissioning services, psychological services, and local voluntary sector organisations.

They are:

One person is listening and taking notes while the other person is talking.

Professionals need to be trained in communication skills and identifying mental health conditions.

  • To provide training to professionals to help them gain knowledge and build confidence in identifying signs and symptoms about mental health conditions. Training courses on communication skills, how to ask sensitive questions, and how to show empathy should be provided.
  • There should be a proactive approach to information sharing, for example though a database of services that is easily updated and accessible to all professionals, and second, creating opportunities for networking and sharing of good practices.
  • To raise public awareness on mental health which may help de-stigmatise mental health.
  • For health and social care professionals to pro-actively engage with the relevant people in the mother’s life as a source of support for them.

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