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Delivering Pregnancy in Mind virtually during COVID-19: a process evaluation

An evaluation looking at how we’ve adapted our preventative mental health service for parents and the experiences of practitioners

Publication date May 2021

Pregnancy in Mind (PiM) is a preventative programme for parents who are experiencing or at risk of mild to moderate anxiety and depression during the perinatal period (during pregnancy and the first year after birth). To comply with coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, an adapted version of the NSPCC’s face-to-face service was developed using virtual and digital methods.

This process evaluation looks at the case data of 186 parents who accessed the adapted service between March and September 2020. It considers:

  • practitioners’ experiences of using virtual and digital methods to deliver the service
  • opportunities and challenges associated with virtual and digital delivery
  • practitioners’ views about the adapted service
  • whether there were improvements in parental mental health for those using the virtual service.

Authors: Aisling McElearney, Georgia Hyde-Dryden, Hannah Walters, Lauren Palmer, Kurt Coulter and Gary Adamson
Published: 2021

Process evaluation of Virtual Pregnancy in Mind during the COVID-19 pandemic
Download the report (PDF)
“It feels like we’re replicating the face-to face [service] virtually. We know exactly what we need to do. We know exactly where the boundaries are of that, but also the flexibilities within that.”

Team Manager, Pregnancy in Mind

Key finding

Virtual delivery of Pregnancy in Mind saw some improvements in parental mental health, and offers some advantages for programme delivery

Parents experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety showed the greatest improvement over six sessions of the virtual delivery of Pregnancy in Mind.

Practitioners identified several benefits to virtual delivery, including extending geographical reach, and developing relationships at a pace that suited anxious parents. There were also some difficulties raised by practitioners such as building peer-to-peer relationships between parents and how to engage with fathers.

Other findings

Local referral networks and flexibility of the programme were identified as key enablers to successfully delivering the virtual service

Key enablers to successful delivery included teams having well-established local referral pathways and networks, as well as team stability and peer support. The flexibility of the programme provided opportunities for strengthening relationships with parents and providing tailored support, using methods such as one-to-one wellbeing checks.

Practitioners adapted to a new way of working despite challenges around the use of digital technology

The rapid change to using technology caused initial anxiety for some practitioners. There were also concerns that virtual delivery could present a barrier to engagement for some parents.


Please cite as: McElearney, A. et al (2021) Process evaluation of Virtual Pregnancy in Mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. London: NSPCC.

Process evaluation of Virtual Pregnancy in Mind during the COVID-19 pandemic
Download the report (PDF)
“I’ve got to say the Pregnancy in Mind service that people have received has had such great results in terms of bringing down people’s wellbeing scores. We are really kind of seeing the reduction."

Team Manager, Pregnancy in Mind