Adapting our perinatal mental health services during coronavirus

Last updated: 04 May 2020 Topics: News Type: News
Introduction

During the perinatal period (during pregnancy and up to a year after birth), parents can be under a lot of pressure. Aside from the practicalities of preparing for a new baby, they may also be dealing with feelings of anxiety, stress or depression. Research suggests that up to one in five mothers and one in 10 fathers experience mental health issues during the perinatal period (Bauer, 2016; NHS, 2018).

And the effects of social distancing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may increase mental health issues. Being away from supportive family and friends, disruption to the daily routine or dealing with new pressures that can arise from the current circumstances may intensify feelings of stress, anxiety and apprehension.

Without the right support, mental health issues can make it trickier for parents to care for and connect with their baby.

It’s a difficult time for everyone, including those working with parents and children. We know people have had to quickly adapt their ways of working due to the pandemic and social distancing. But it’s more important than ever that professionals can identify and support parents who are struggling with their mental health during the perinatal period.

To help you support new parents’ mental health during the pandemic, we’re sharing best practice on how we’ve adapted our perinatal services to meet parents’ needs at this time. We’ve also pulled together some resources you can use with parents to help support their mental health and their relationship with their children.

References

Bauer, A, et al (2016) The costs of perinatal mental health problems (PDF). London: Centre for Mental Health

National Health Service (NHS) (2018) Partners of new mums with mental illness set to get targeted support on the NHS [Accessed 28/04/2020]

Adapting our services

How we have adapted our services

Our perinatal services, Pregnancy in Mind and Baby Steps, continue to support parents during the pandemic.

Pregnancy in Mind

This service is delivered during the middle trimester of pregnancy. It supports parents-to-be who are at risk of or who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety and depression. It aims to develop parents’ relationship with their child, help them manage any difficulties and build their capacity to provide sensitive, responsive care to their babies, before and after birth.

How we’re adapting the service

Our practitioners speak to each parent taking part in the programme to identify their individual needs. We’ve put the following measures in place to make sure parents get the personalised support they need.

  • Learning packs

We’ve adapted the programme and its materials into packs, which are provided to participants ahead of sessions via email each week. These materials support participants during the sessions and beyond.

  • Phone contact and support

Practitioners call parents weekly to discuss their wellbeing and general concerns or anxieties. This ensures support is targeted and specific to each person. We may signpost parents to further support if required.

  • Remote group meetings or individual support

Our practitioners provide weekly one-to-one or group sessions via telephone or an online video conferencing platform. The learning materials from the programme are used within these sessions.

  • Messaging

Some Pregnancy in Mind teams use a messaging app so the participants of the programme can chat 24/7. These conversations may be about pregnancy or anything they wish to talk about. A practitioner is in the group to help answer any queries and identify concerns or anxieties.

> Find out more about Pregnancy in Mind

Baby Steps

Baby Steps is designed to help prepare people for becoming parents. It’s aimed at those who are more likely to need extra help, including parents with low-level mental health issues. Usually, a practitioner would do a home visit in the seventh month of pregnancy, followed by six group sessions in the six weeks before the baby is born. One home visit and three group sessions would follow the baby’s birth.

Since 2015, we’ve trained and supported other organisations to provide Baby Steps in their local area.

How we’re adapting the service

We’ve worked closely with the organisations delivering Baby Steps, to help them continue to provide the service virtually during the pandemic.

Baby Steps facilitators will work with individuals and couples rather than running group sessions. This includes:

  • working remotely through phone and video calls
  • providing nine videos for parents that share the key messages from each of the planned group sessions
  • circulating electronic or hard copies of information and work sheets from the programme so parents can work through the exercises at home
  • talking to parents about their wellbeing so we can understand how they are doing
  • holding shorter video calls on a more frequent basis than the original group sessions
  • directing parents to helpful external materials and sources of support
  • taking new referrals so that new parents can receive help and support from the programme.

> Find out more about Baby Steps

Resources

Resources for supporting perinatal mental health

Webinar

We’ve recorded a webinar on perinatal mental health for Maternal Mental Health Awareness week. It contains information on:

  • why we’re working in this area
  • how our perinatal services have adapted to continue to support parents during the coronavirus pandemic
  • how our Fight for a Fair Start campaign is seeking to ensure that all parents get access to the right mental health support at the right time.

> Read more about the Fight for a Fair Start campaign

Podcast

Listen to our podcast episode on perinatal mental health for information and advice on:

  • why parents might be referred to our perinatal programmes Pregnancy in Mind and Baby Steps
  • how these services engage with families
  • the benefits of the perinatal programmes
  • what provisions are available outside the NSPCC.

> Listen to our Podcast

Resources to share with parents

Look, Say, Sing, Play

Our Look, Say, Sing, Play resources help parents engage with their children in a way that helps build children’s brains during the early years.

> Read more about Look, Say, Sing, Play

> Find out how playing and actively interacting with children builds their brains

Baby parenting tips

We’ve updated our advice on parenting on the NSPCC website to include information on:

  • coronavirus and mental health while pregnant and giving birth
  • managing stress
  • bonding with and calming your baby.

> Read the baby parenting tips on the NSPCC website

Positive Parenting

Our Positive parenting booklet give advice and tips on how to set boundaries and build positive relationships. These may be particularly helpful if parents are experiencing pressures or stress.

Topics covered include:

  • understanding the needs of children at different ages
  • how to set boundaries, keep discipline and provide rewards
  • how to manage stresses.

> Read the Positive parenting guide

Mental health and parenting

We’ve provided information for parents about mental health on the NSPCC website which outlines:

  • how mental health issues may affect parenting
  • where to find help and support
  • specific information and advice for taking care of your mental health during coronavirus.

> Find out more about Mental health and parenting on the NSPCC website

Advice and support

Contact our helpline for advice if you are worried about a child’s wellbeing. Our trained professionals will talk through your concerns with you and take action to protect the child if necessary.

You can call us on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

Keeping up-to-date

Keep up to date on the most recent guidance during the coronavirus pandemic by subscribing to our CASPAR email newsletter

Our free information service is still open, helping professionals find the resources they need to keep children safe. Find out how to contact us.