NSPCC perinatal mental health service shown to improve mental health of parents-to-be

NSPCC perinatal mental health service shown to improve mental health of parents-to-be

Guest blog by Louise Harrington, NSPCC

This year has been like no other, and for new and expectant mums and dads there have been so many new challenges to contend with. The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of parents-to-be was clearly demonstrated in the ‘Babies in Lockdown’ report, which also told us that only one third of parents expressed confidence in being able to access mental health support if required.

Even before the pandemic hit, the NSPCC has been calling on governments across the UK through our Fight for a Fair Start campaign to ensure training and resources to spot perinatal mental health problems are available so parents can receive the support they need, at the earliest opportunity, to benefit them and their babies. In alignment with the Everyone’s Business campaign, where parents need specialist care and support, the NSPCC want governments to ensure it’s available to them, wherever they live.

For parents who are at risk of or experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and depression, access to preventative services like the NSPCC’s Pregnancy in Mind programme is vital and can help avoid escalation. Our recent evaluation showed that after attending the eight-week programme, parents-to-be experienced statistically significant improvements in their mental health:

    • 79% of participants saw clinical improvements in their anxiety
    • 71% of participants saw clinical improvements in their depression

We also found that:

    • Parents reported being more able to manage their mental health after the programme, using techniques and practices learnt in the group.

“They’re not going to make it go away, no one is ever going to make stress go away from a person but [the strategies learnt] are going to help me cope with it better.”

    • Parent-foetal relationship improved, although an increase as pregnancy progresses is expected so this result can’t be attributed solely to the programme.

“The activities that we did there, like list some characteristics you thought they had, and doing keepsake boxes and the breathing to baby, that all helped me get a bond with her, and ultimately made me decide, yeah, I have made the right decision to keep my daughter.”

    • Some parents reported improvements in the quality of the relationship they had with their partner, although this was not statistically significant.

“I think it’s changed the way you think about stuff, how to act towards the way your partner behaves and understanding what the partner’s feeling.”

    • Parents reported improved communication with their support networks outside of partner relationships.

Responding to parents’ needs

The evaluation also highlighted where the NSPCC could make changes to improve the experience of parents attending the programme.

It taught us about the value of peer-to-peer support in pregnancy for some parents, and how there can be challenges for single parents who attend group work programmes on their own alongside mums and partners. It also highlighted what more we can do to engage parents-to-be from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

To bring about the greatest positive change for children and families facing multiple adversities, we need to keep learning and feeding lessons from evaluations back into service development. We’re taking what we’ve learnt and making adaptations to Pregnancy in Mind, while also looking at our virtual delivery of the service over the last six months and how we can continue to support parents while ‘stay at home’ guidelines and restrictions are in place.

To read the full report, visit NSPCC Learning.

Image copyright of NSPCC. Photography by Tom Hull. The adults pictured are models.