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Better mental health support needed for new mums

Support such as listening visits by health visitors to new mothers with mental health problems could be improved
Picture show model depicting depressed young mother holding a baby. Support such as listening visits by health visitors to new mothers with mental health problems could be improved.

Support such as listening visits by health visitors to new mothers with mental health problems could be improved

Health visitors help new mothers to cope with mental health problems through support such as listening visits, but more attention should be paid to how such support can be improved, a survey suggests.

Around 20% of mothers experience mental health problems during pregnancy or after birth. Although many mothers experience mild to moderate anxiety or depression, only a minority receive help.

Listening visits are made by health visitors (HVs)

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Support such as listening visits by health visitors to new mothers with mental health problems could be improved

Picture show model depicting depressed young mother holding a baby. Support such as listening visits by health visitors to new mothers with mental health problems could be improved.
Picture: Alamy

Health visitors help new mothers to cope with mental health problems through support such as ‘listening visits’, but more attention should be paid to how such support can be improved, a survey suggests.

Around 20% of mothers experience mental health problems during pregnancy or after birth. Although many mothers experience mild to moderate anxiety or depression, only a minority receive help.

Listening visits are made by health visitors (HVs) for perinatal mental health problems, and this study explored HVs’ views on their content and purpose.

An online survey sent to 9,474 members of the Institute of Health Visiting was completed by 1,599 (17%), of whom 85% were offering listening visits.

Little agreement on details of listening visits

Respondents had a shared understanding of the rationale for the listening visits, but there was little agreement on which practice techniques should be used in these visits or their duration, frequency and expected outcomes.

Staff shortages, conflicting priorities, inadequate training and supervision for HVs as well as the absence of authoritative guidance influenced the extent to which HVs offered listening visits and their variation.


Reference

Lowenhoff C, Davison‐Fischer J, Pike N et al (2019) Using the TIDieR checklist to describe health visitor support for mothers with mental health problems: Analysis of a cross‐sectional survey. Health and Social Care in the Community. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12790


Vari Drennan is professor of healthcare and policy research at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London

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