Women who face separation of their baby often face multiple adversities, with complex mental health needs before, during and after pregnancy. An MBRRACE-UK report (2021) highlighted a large of proportion of women who died by suicide or substance misuse had ongoing social care proceedings or had their baby taken into care.
Evidence is lacking on how midwifery care and models of midwifery care can contribute to support these women. This is important as the perinatal period offers a unique ‘window of opportunity’, with services more readily available to women than at any other time.
This project aims to understand the impact of midwifery support and models of midwifery care on the experiences and outcomes of women who face separation from their baby due to care proceedings.
About the research
Although the study has a wider remit than the south London population, it will be the first study to focus on maternity experiences and outcomes of a marginalised and under-researched group of women, whose complex needs are currently unmet. The quantitative analysis will provide more information about the needs and outcomes of women in south London that are at risk of having their baby removed from their care, and therefore contribute building the evidence base around health inequalities for women with multiple social disadvantage.
How the research will be carried out
The research team will first carry out a review of existing literature which will identify, select and synthesise all research published. Next, they will conduct a mixed methods study. Using qualitative methods, to explore experiences of maternity care of both women who faced separation from their baby and midwives. Themes from the qualitative analysis will inform the quantitative component of the study. Using the Early-Life data cross Linkage in Research (eLIXIR) database, they will investigate women’s characteristics, perinatal outcomes and engagement with maternity and healthcare services during the perinatal period. Qualitative and quantitative results will be merged and synthesised and reviewed by the patient and public involvement advisory board. A stakeholder event will conclude the study to present findings and shape policy recommendations.
How patients and the public are involved in the research
The study has strong links with three organisations that support women whose baby was taken into care: Birth Companions, MPower and Pause, who fully endorse the research. An expert panel of women with lived experience was involved in preparing the proposal by checking relevance, defining research questions and fine-tuning sensitive use of language. The panel will remain involved throughout the project to help guide the research process. The engagement leads of the organisations will also play key roles in recruitment and support of participants.
The study is funded by the NIHR and ill be completed by September 2025. It was adopted by ARC South London in October 2022.