New models of peer support for recent parents have been developed in a number of different contexts and by different national organisations and community based groups including NCT, Parents 1st and Positively UK.
The aims of this project, carried out by Jenny McLeish and Maggie Redshaw, are to bridge a gap between the social and emotional support that new parents need during pregnancy and in the weeks after birth and what health professionals are able to provide, and to specifically focus on the needs of women from relatively disadvantaged groups.
One model that aims to be socially and culturally appropriate has been developed by the NCT and is being piloted in several different areas of England.
Other models are being developed in London and the South of England by a social enterprise, non-profit making organisation and other groups.
While some initial evaluation has been carried out by individual organisations, most commonly on training, it is important to expand the research in this area to better explore and understand the impact on peer supporters and new mothers and the lessons learned when the models have been fully operationalised.
Evidence is needed to support roll-out of this type of service to other communities.
Building on our established skills and relationships, this collaborative project has involved PRU researchers in working with the NCT and other peer support project teams.
Using an interview methodology qualitative data have been collected with the aim of exploring the experience of peer supporters and that of the women supported during pregnancy and afterwards and the way the different models are working in a range of different sites and communities, representing a diverse range of disadvantaged groups.
More than 100 interviews have been conducted, analysis is ongoing and a paper on models and perceptions of peer support has been published.
Specific analyses have focused on the impact of peer support on women's mental health and the way peer support works with women with HIV.
The following papers have been published: 'Peer support during pregnancy and early parenthood: a qualitative study of models and perceptions': https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-015-0685-y ‘We have beaten HIV a bit’: a qualitative study of experiences of peer support during pregnancy with an HIV Mentor Mother project in England http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e011499.long '"I didn't think we'd be dealing with stuff like this": A qualitative study of volunteer support for very disadvantaged pregnant women and new mothers':http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266613816303072 'Mothers’ accounts of the impact on emotional wellbeing of organised peer support in pregnancy and early parenthood: a qualitative study': https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-017-1220-0