Pregnancy in Mind Evidence, impact and evaluation

We're testing Pregnancy in Mind to find out what difference it can make to parents who are at risk of, or experiencing, mild to moderate anxiety and depression during pregnancy and the first year after birth.

Why early intervention is essential in giving babies the best start

All babies need to be safe, nurtured and able to thrive. The early care they receive provides the essential foundations for all future physical, social and emotional development. Whilst most parents do provide the love and care their babies need, sadly too many babies suffer abuse and neglect.

Identifying and supporting the most at risk families in our community at the earliest stage is critical to giving a baby the best possible start in life. Working with parents during pregnancy and the first years of a child's life can transform life outcomes.

Read more about the importance of early intervention.

How Pregnancy in Mind is helping protect children

Pregnancy is an important time for mums, dads and babies. Parental mental illness during this period can have a lasting effect on some children. Stress chemicals produced by women suffering from depression or anxiety can affect their unborn child's development. Anxiety and depression during pregnancy can also increase the risk of postnatal depression. This, in turn, can make it harder for parents to provide warm and responsive care after the baby is born. 

That's why it's important to identify parents who are at risk early, and ensure they get the support they need. Unfortunately, research shows that perinatal anxiety and depression regularly go undetected. When symptoms are identified, parents often struggle to access the treatment they need. Services that do exist often focus solely on the women's symptoms, without addressing the impact on their developing relationships with their babies. The mental health of dads or partners also often goes over-looked, despite the important role they play in mums' and babies' lives. For more information about mental illnesses that women can experience during the antenatal and postnatal period and what can be done to ensure better prevention, identification and treatment of these illnesses see our Prevention in mind report. 

Our aim is to support the mental wellbeing of both mums and dads during pregnancy. We're also helping parents to develop and maintain the skills they need to care for their child. 

We developed Pregnancy in Mind using co-operative approach. We involved parents, practitioners, service managers, commissioners and academics in both the design and development of the service. 

How we're evaluating this service

The evaluation of Pregnancy in Mind will use both qualitative and quantitative data. This will allow us to explore the overall experience of Pregnancy in Mind's users and practitioners, as well as measure the service's effect on parental mental health and relationships. 

The evaluation is planned to take place across four phases:

Phase 1: feasibility testing

We will explore recruitment, retention, parents' and practitioners' levels of satisfaction, and parents' experiences of any behaviour changes by:

  • collecting parent recruitment, retention and socio demographic data
  • collecting 'group session rating scales' and parent satisfaction questionnaires
  • conducting focus groups with practitioners and interviews with parents and volunteers.

Phase 2: data analysis and programme refinement

Phase 3: effectiveness testing

Validated and reliable questionnaires will be given out to parents when they start and finish the programme and at various points in between. These questionnaires will be scored and statistical analyses will explore whether there are changes in:

  • depression and anxiety symptoms
  • level of social support
  • quality of relationship with partner
  • mind-mindedness capacity
  • mindfulness skills

Phase 4: cost effective analysis

We are in the early stages of the evaluation process. We are currently in the process of:

  • collecting data on recruitment, engagement, attrition, demographics, and ongoing referral pathways. We will also be looking at parent's satisfaction with the course
  • interviewing staff to explore experiences of delivering the programme
  • look at changes in parents levels of anxiety and depression
  • interviewing parents to understand their experiences of the programme and explore the range of outcomes they are reporting
  • interviewing parents who have a home visit but don't attend any sessions to assess their reasons for dropping out

The initial stage of the evaluation is due to be completed in March 2016, with initial findings available in April 2016.

Contact Denise Coster for more information

What we're doing next

From June 2016 the programme's outcomes will be measured using self-report psychometric measure and questionnaires.

We want to learn if Pregnancy in Mind improves:

  • levels of depression and anxiety
  • level of social support
  • quality of relationship with partner
  • attachment to the unborn baby
  • use of mindfulness techniques
  • use of active relaxation techniques

Results from the final evaluation are expected by the end of 2018.

Impact and evidence hub

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

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