With perinatal health being a particular interest of mine and having recently completed a university assignment on this, it was a perfect opportunity to attend and hear about the two papers being talked about in this session. There was a good mix as one paper focused on the experiences of disabled women in the perinatal period and the other was looking into the priorities in mental health.
Firstly, it was great to hear about Bethan Collins research into the experiences of disabled women during the antenatal and postnatal period. She highlighted the fact that disabled women tended to have significantly less positive experiences in this period and part of this study showed that the literature backed this fact up.
Bethan highlighted that the key findings of her research focused on service users satisfaction with the care they received; their choice in care; the continuity of carer and being listened to and treated as an individual. Bethan highlighted how we, as occupational therapists, could have a bigger potential role in this period.
I was particularly disappointed to learn that where occupational therapists had been involved in the antenatal period, it was largely focused on equipment giving and that there was very limited occupational therapist input in the postnatal period. This research also showed that many service users wanted more input about the actual parenting, rather than equipment. Bethan spoke about how often these women felt that people were not considering them when giving advice, and sometimes they would have liked to have been in touch with others with the same condition for reassurance and guidance.
These all seem like basic ideas, but the fact that they are not happening shows that the women need us, as a holistic profession, to advocate for their needs. We are a client-centred profession, perhaps more so than many of the others, and we can use this to our advantage in supporting women through-out pregnancy and early parenting experiences.
The second part of the session was delivered by Sarah Maris-Shaw, with a personal perspective added by service user Sarah Gosset. Their aim was to raise awareness of mental health priorities in perinatal settings, with a focus on co-occupations.
Firstly, they started out with some shocking statistics. 23% of mental health related deaths can be attributed to mental health and yet there are only 16 mother and baby units across the country, whilst 40% of people experiencing perinatal mental health would not receive any specialist care (check out Maternal mental health Everyone’s Business for more information).
The practice Sarah works in focuses on preventative work, so they can work with people with mental health concern, not necessarily a diagnosis. This seemed important to me as it is proactively working with people to prevent future poor mental health developing. The group which runs as part of this service focuses on co-occupations. For those of you who, like me, did not really know what this word means, it means that the occupation would not occur without the interaction of the other person. For example, the co-occupation of feeding a child or playing with a child. In this circumstance, both parent and child have to learn about the co-occupation. This is why it is important to explore these within the group. It was also fantastic to hear a personal perspective from Sarah about how the group had helped her and the importance of it. There really is no better feedback than direct from a service user!
Both of these sessions were exciting to be a part of and I hope it inspires more occupational therapists to really be involved in this area, particularly with Sarah Maris-Shaw highlighting the NHS five-year forward view for mental health, which specifically mentions occupational therapists in the perinatal period – what better time to get involved?
Written by Katie Gabriel – @Katie-Next
Follow them on Twitter:
Sarah Maris-Shaw – @sarahmarisshaw
Bethan Collins – @Bethanhc