Measure baseline experiences to allow comparison
Explore ways services could develop to maintain and improve patient experience.
Mums want accessible information at a time convenient for them. Waiting for routine appointments can delay treatment.
There is a need for more eduction with a focus on recognising perinatal mental health
They want clear, non-judgemental and open discussion with their healthcare provider. Forms that they feel rushed to complete means they do not answer fully.
They want more empathy and reassurance that its ok to be feeling a certain way.
Key messages from research and focus groups:
It’s evident that there are some conversations happening around perinatal mental health, but there is still a lot more that can be done. The biggest takeaway is the need for awareness and for it to be accessible. Of those surveyed, 57.1% had no knowledge of psychosis and 60.8% no knowledge of antenatal depression. 31.1% of respondents did not have enough education of anxiety to determine what it was. These results show 30%-60% of respondents have little awareness of perinatal mental health conditions and would not recognise perinatal mental health symptoms. Geographical data indicated this isn’t a localised concern with common trends nationwide. This would suggest a need for NHS to look at this issue as a whole.
Partners & Support Networks
Partners are often the number one support for expectant and new mums. It’s vital they have an understanding of perinatal mental health issues. This should include education on:
- the signs and symptoms to look out for,
- support networks,
- guidance on treatments,
- how to support their partner emotionally and
- how they can ensure they look after themselves and others around them.
Likewise, for those with other children in their family, it’s important mental health concerns within the home do not affect them. They still need to feel secure, comfortable and loved. It’s already an emotional journey for them becoming an older sibling and as such they need support.
Using research and the survey, we have put together a ‘Check Yourself Toolkit’. It’s for women to be able to check how they are feeling. The purpose is for them to see if what they are feeling is usual for them or something more serious. It uses a selection of questions adapted from PND scales. It details our experiences, including triggers we now look for to check ourselves. If someone relates to any of these questions it could be the first step for them getting the help that they need. The Toolkit does not override clinical judgement and we always emphasis the need to seek medical help. The benefit is the patient will identify they are at risk and know to seek help. We are developing a Toolkit for partners on signs to look for in themselves and in their partners. The Check Yourself Toolkit can provide a true representation of how a person is feeling. We hope it can be a conversation starter or prompt when speaking with their medical professional. Feedback suggested they found it difficult to say how they were truly feeling if they completed a depression scale. The questions were often leading and felt like a box ticking exercise. From the focus group, we know many mums felt they are able to answer more openly and honestly when in their own environment. There is a fear of how their answers are perceived or the consequences of what they said when speaking with a healthcare professional.
Dr. Emma Hepburn
Dr. Emma Hepburn helped developed the toolkit. Dr Hepburn is a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with mental health in both adults and children. Emma explains why the feelings we were experiencing may be happening. Emma helps to reassure us these feelings are not unusual for those living with mental ill health. She advises that if you relate to any of these experiences it is imperative you speak to a professional. The Toolkits will share our own experiences communicated in layman’s terms.
We developed the Check Yourself Toolkit:
- to give reassurance
- raise awareness & educate
- ask questions that may trigger someone to realise they have a problem and ask for help.
We are proposing a pilot project with the NHS and More Than A Tick Box. A collaboratively approach will raise awareness of perinatal mental health – with a strong focus on partners, family and children. There is a real need for this piece of work to happen to increase the options for pregnant women, new mums and partners. We want them to be able to check in with themselves, have a better understanding of their feelings and seek help.