Midwives have a unique role in supporting women through pregnancy and into the early postnatal period. This should encompass meeting the woman’s needs in terms of her physical and mental health to support optimal health for mum and baby. All midwives have a crucial role in identifying women in need of mental health support, and the role of the Specialist Maternal Mental Health Midwife (SMMHM) is vital to ensure individual needs are met. This requires coordinated care and support for individuals but also working with the local multidisciplinary team to create adequate local care pathways in perinatal mental health, supporting training across the wider workforce and championing perinatal mental health within maternity care.
In 2014, the MMHA put forward a bid to the Department of Health to support the development of improved perinatal mental health care for women in pregnancy and postnatally. This bid resulted in the Specialist Maternal Mental Health Midwives Project which has now come to an end.
Details of the aims and outputs from the project can be found below.
The project was launched at the Royal College of Midwives conference in November 2015 with the following key recommendations:
- That every maternity trust has a midwife who specialises in maternal mental health at a senior level
- The need for a whole system approach to perinatal mental health within each Trust/Health Board
- That all health professionals working with women in the perinatal period have a basic awareness, knowledge and understanding of perinatal mental health and its problems
The Specialist Maternal Mental Health Midwives project was undertaken over two years with the following elements forming part of the proposals:
- Mapping SMMHMs by maternity services across England
- Establishing a SMMHM network and a first conference of the network (joint with Specialist Mental Health Visitors (SMHHVs) and open to all interested midwives and health visitors), working with the Royal College of Midwives, Institute of Health Visiting and the Royal College of General Practitioners
- Developing Maternity Mental Health Care standards, an audit toolkit and midwife training curriculum working with experts from organisations from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance
- Developing a training module for SMMHMs: a web-based module developed from an initial two-day face-to-face training package for existing SMMHMs. This would include expert knowledge on perinatal mental health, clinical skills development and training, and communication and leadership skills development.
Janet Fyle from the Royal College of Midwives, who led on the project, has provided this final summary report on the outputs:
1. Mapping Specialist Maternal Mental Health Midwives by maternity service across England
This enabled us to develop the workshop to further elicit the views of SMMHMs and other professionals who work in maternal mental health.
2. Specialist Maternal Mental Health E-Networking
The network can be found here: http://www.maternalmentalhealth.org.uk/
The networking group is primarily aimed at SMMHMs, nurses, SMHHVs and GPs with a special interest in mental health or those working in NGOs who share the networking group’s aims. There are now nearly 800 active members. More development work is underway to open the network to voluntary sector individuals. We are also working with a consultant to deal with the professional aspects of the network in order to facilitate webinars, podcasts and generate items and ideas for the discussions for the forums
3. Standards and Competency Framework for Specialist Maternal Mental Health Midwives
This publication was launched at the Royal College of Midwives conference in November 2015 and gained media attention. It was presented to the Minister and Health Education England. Various discussions are underway regarding a curriculum and package of training for specialist midwives in addition to the e-learning published by Health Education England.
Some aspects of the elements were not appropriate for the Royal College of Midwives to undertake. However, Health Education England is now working on a variety of initiatives to develop training modules for specialist midwives. The Royal College of Midwives has been asked to bid for Transformation Funds in order to develop the curriculum and training package for SMMHMs.
The Royal College of Midwives https://www.rcm.org.uk/tags/perinatal-mental-health
Janet Fyle, Professional Policy Adviser, Royal College of Midwives Janet.Fyle@rcm.org.uk