Family Action: Perinatal Support Projects – Let’s start delivering for mothers and babies

Family Action’s Perinatal Support Projects were set up in 2010 to tackle parental mental health and help women who experience mild to moderate depression in the early stages of pregnancy and motherhood.

Around a fifth of women experience antenatal anxiety or depression and 10-15% of mothers suffer postnatal depression (PND). This can have consequences for babies’ development.

However a clear gap is visible within the health services to help and support women with mild to moderate ante and postnatal depression. Only women who are younger and first-time mothers or have serious mental health difficulties are likely to obtain support from the NHS.

Family Action’s solution train and supervise volunteer ‘befrienders’ who offer emotional and parenting support to vulnerable, isolated mums and mums to be who are suffering depression.

Researchers from Warwick Medical School have shown our befriending is effective in reducing mothers’ feelings of isolation and depression and improving their feelings towards their babies.

One of our befriender reports: “The most important part of my role was to listen, and to empathise with her because I’d felt some of the things she was feeling too. I could tell her that things get better. I talked things through with her, about what she was feeling, reassuring her that bonding can be difficult at the start but that is does get better. I interacted with her baby too – talking to him and helping her be more aware that her baby was smiling at her.”

The project highlights the importance of supporting vulnerable mothers at such a crucial stage to ensure mother and baby’s future wellbeing. Providing someone to listen and comfort, including parenting and practical advice can improve the transition into parenthood. The best thing is that the experiences of parents who have been there are used positively.

Family Action is calling for more investment in perinatal services. Our Mind the Gap campaign is calling for more support services for women at risk of perinatal depression. We’re encouraging people to sign up to support our campaign and to contact their MPs to lobby them to press Government to do more to close the gap for mums and babies.

For more information about our Perinatal Support Projects or to get involved in the campaign visit our website (www.family-action.org.uk).

Written by Sian Jones – member of the Policy and Campaigns Team at the charity Family Action