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Training on cultural competency for perinatal mental health peer supporters

02 December 2022
Volume 30 · Issue 12



Women from migrant or minority ethnic backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to perinatal mental ill health. Peer support can be beneficial for those with perinatal mental ill health. This study's aim was to evaluate a training package combining perinatal mental health and the impact of migration to enable better support for women from ethnic minorities with perinatal mental ill health.


Peer supporters who undertook training completed a survey immediately afterwards and interviews were conducted 3 months later. A total of 10 peer supporters were trained.


The participants all rated the training as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ and reported increased awareness of perinatal mental ill health, cultural issues and women's vulnerability. More complex scenarios were requested, given the multi-factorial nature of many women's needs.


The combined training provided participants from different backgrounds with opportunities to learn from one another. Further evaluation among participants new to peer supporting is required.

It has been well established that women experience increased vulnerability to mental ill health during pregnancy and the postpartum period (Megnin-Viggars et al, 2015). The further vulnerability of marginalised groups in the perinatal population, such as women from migrant or minority ethnic backgrounds, is also known (Falah-Hassani et al, 2015; Moore et al, 2019). The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant mental health burden, with depression and anxiety being higher in perinatal women during the pandemic compared to prior to the pandemic (Hessami et al, 2020). This has been felt more acutely by populations who were already more vulnerable to mental ill health (Das, 2021).

Perinatal mental ill health impacts both maternal and infant health outcomes. In the UK, suicide as a result of maternal mental ill health has been a leading cause of maternal death in recent years (Knight et al, 2021). Furthermore, negative associations have been found between prenatal anxiety and breastfeeding initiation, and between postpartum anxiety and the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding (Hoff et al, 2019). Women with postpartum depression are also less likely to breastfeed at all or exclusively (Wouk et al, 2017), with one study reporting that postnatal depression pre-dated discontinuation of breastfeeding, but not vice versa (Dennis and McQueen, 2007). A meta-analysis found that maternal perinatal depression or anxiety increased the risk of poorer infant socio-emotional development, including internalising, externalising and negative emotionality (Rogers et al, 2020). Perinatal mental ill health was also associated with poorer infant language, motor skills and cognitive development, with these deficiencies not only noted in infancy but into childhood and adolescence (Rogers et al, 2020). These long-term impacts for both mother and infant mean that effective management of perinatal mental ill health is essential.

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