Funded in 2020-2021 by an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award, and led by Professor Ranjana Das and Professor Paul Hodkinson of the University of Surrey’s Department of Sociology, this project has been a partnership with the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). Pooling together academic research and professional expertise in the area of mental health support for new parents, we have developed resources for parents and practitioners to better support perinatal mental health over the course of 2020 and 2021.
Ranjana and Paul had been researching and writing about perinatal wellbeing for the last few years. Ranjana’s work on mothers’ perinatal wellbeing and the role of digital technologies led her to approach Paul – who had been working on fatherhood – to do joint work on new fathers’ perinatal mental health. As their work on fathers and mothers progressed, they decided to bring these interests together, by producing parent and professional-facing resources from their work in association with national partners such as the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).
Amid growing evidence of the mental health difficulties that can be experienced by both mothers and fathers in the perinatal period, the need for appropriate information and support (not least for neglected or hard to reach groups such as fathers and migrant mothers) is acute. Our proposed activities centred on improving information and support through enhancements to practitioner understandings and practice and the production of on and offline information resources for parents.
1. We aimed to inform and engage with key antenatal and postnatal professionals in order to enhance their support for parents with respect to perinatal mental health;
2. We aimed to enhance the provision of well-informed direct communication about perinatal mental health issues with new parents via on and offline materials;
3. We aimed to improve communication and support related to especially neglected or difficult to reach groups, including fathers and migrant mothers.
We developed a plan of action which addressed two specific aims of the ESRC IAA.
First, we aimed to “expedite capacity development within and outside the institution, through training and skills development, to ensure the sustainability of activity and practices learned during the lifetime of the IA”. Second, we paidattention, through a range of material and practical means, the aims of the ESRC IAA to generate impact which “through coproduction of research with users, facilitated by early/greater opportunities for dialogue and networking with external partners and stakeholders”.
Addressing these aims, our work has spoken to two clear kinds of impact prioritised by the ESRC. The first – instrumental impact – has dealt with ““changes to policy, practice or service provision” and the second – capacity-building – has related to “technical and skill development”, both of which our proposed agenda have incorporated.
What we have produced
Together with our partner organisations, we translated our research on mothers’ and fathers’ perinatal mental health into workshops, infographics, factographics, evidence reviews, training and parent-facing material which all aimed to better support perinatal mental health.