An in-depth qualitative research study conducted between September 2018 and May 2019 explored the experience of 18 mothers from Lambeth with mild to moderate mental health problems at perinatal stage. The views of 12 health and social care professionals on their confidence to support mothers and their knowledge on the relevant services mothers can access were also sought. The perinatal stage spans from pregnancy into the first year after birth.
- The identification of mental health problems does not happen quickly 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 experiences 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.
We made recommendations to be addressed by local hospital trusts, maternity services, commissioning services, psychological services, and local voluntary sector organisations. for example, providing 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. Also to raise public awareness on mental health which may help de-stigmatise mental health.