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Challenges and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic for perinatal mental health care: a mixed methods study of mental health care staff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Claire Wilson, Christian Dalton-Locke, Sonia Johnson, Alan Simpson, Sian Oram, Louise Howard

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-757
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Volume24
Issue number5
Early online date8 Apr 2021
DOIs
Accepted/In press20 Jan 2021
E-pub ahead of print8 Apr 2021
PublishedOct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This paper presents a secondary analysis of independent research commissioned and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme, conducted by the NIHR Policy Research Unit (PRU) in Mental Health. Funding Information: S.J., S.O., L.M.H., and A.S. are grant holders for the NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit. L.M.H. receives salary support from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London and the NIHR South London Applied Research Collaboration. Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s). Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore staff perceptions of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health service delivery and outcomes for women who were pregnant or in the first year after birth (‘perinatal’ women). Secondary analysis was undertaken of an online mixed-methods survey open to all mental health care staff in the UK involving 363 staff working with women in the perinatal period. Staff perceived the mental health of perinatal women to be particularly vulnerable to the impact of stressors associated with the pandemic such as social isolation (rated by 79.3% as relevant or extremely relevant; 288/363) and domestic violence and abuse (53.3%; 192/360). As a result of changes to mental health and other health and social care services, staff reported feeling less able to assess women, particularly their relationship with their baby (43.3%; 90/208), and to mobilise safeguarding procedures (29.4%; 62/211). While 42% of staff reported that some women engaged poorly with virtual appointments, they also found flexible remote consulting to be beneficial for some women and helped time management due to reductions in travel time. Delivery of perinatal care needs to be tailored to women’s needs; virtual appointments are perceived not to be appropriate for assessments but may be helpful for some women in subsequent interactions. Safeguarding and other risk assessment procedures must remain robust in spite of modifications made to service delivery during pandemics.

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