THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT WITH THE ARRIVAL OF A NEW BABY COMES ADDED PRESSURE ON MUMS, DADS, FAMILIES AND CARERS. THOSE TASKED WITH THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GIVING A CHILD THE BEST START CAN OFTEN FEEL OVERWHELMED, ANXIOUS, SOCIALLY ISOLATED AND UNDER PRESSURE BOTH FINANCIALLY AND IN THEIR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS.
Last year we partnered with Halton CCG and the Improving Me Vanguard in a flagship parent support project, The Babybox Co, which supports new mum’s physical and mental health through social prescribing. The project, combines 3 innovations to form the overall family support project; Baby Boxes, Baby Box University Platform and Elemental’s social prescribing software.
The innovative programme is funded by the Innovation Agency, and is designed to help expectant mums, dads and families with new babies feel more equipped before and after labour via a range of services and resources referred through Elemental’s Core social prescribing platform.
The Baby Box project will help expectant and new mums, dads and families access a range of specific support relevant to them in their local community including family activities, exercise, healthy cooking classes, food clubs, yoga and meditation, make-up classes, flower arranging to reduce social isolation and improve their mental and physical health and wellbeing, providing a positive support network for their families.
ASSESSING THE NEED FOR SUPPORT
We sat down with former Baby Box Link Worker Sonia MacKenzie to find out a bit more about how the project is helping mums and families.
Sonia told us an incredible story about a lady called Victoria Dobie. Victoria was referred to the Baby Box project when she was 28 weeks pregnant by her midwife at Wingate Medical Centre. Victoria had gone through some medical problems and was extremely anxious throughout her pregnancy. She was also battling grief as she lost her dad earlier on in the year.
“When I first started chatting to Victoria it was clear she was feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. It’s totally understandable for expectant mums to feel this way at any stage of their pregnancy, but with the added pressure of grieving for her dad and having gone through a long illness, it was evident that we needed to connect Victoria to specific interventions in her area, aimed at improving her mental health and well being giving her a sense of reassurance.” Baby Box Link Worker, Sonia MacKenzie
SOURCING AND CONNECTING RESOURCES
Victoria was referred into a range of antenatal classes including sessions dedicated to relaxation and breathing, labour techniques, breastfeeding and meditation. Sonia noticed a positive shift in Victoria’s mental health and was delighted to hear that Victoria was feeling a lot more reassured and less anxious about giving birth.
Victoria has since given birth to a beautiful baby boy called David after her dad and praises the Baby Box project for allowing her to enjoy the later stage of her pregnancy and reduce feelings of anxiety.
“The Babybox University modules really helped me as a first time Mum I had lots of questions and worries. As I went further on in my pregnancy the questions increased and there were some concerns with the baby, leading to me take time off work then being admitted to hospital. I didn’t want to keep pestering the midwives as they are so busy, so having Sonia there to offer advice and tell me about things I could attend that I had no idea about was so helpful. I was able to attend some breathing and relaxation classes which really helped my anxiety and I had a hospital tour. I had been told I now had to have a c section which caused me more stress so being able to visit the hospital and being walked through the process relieved a lot of my worries.“ Victoria Dobie
PREVENTING POST-NATAL DEPRESSION
Post-natal depression affects around 1 in 1000 women in the UK and starts within days or weeks of childbirth. It can develop in a few hours and can be life-threatening, so in some cases needs urgent treatment.
The Baby Box project aims at preventing post-natal depression by providing new mums with a range of classes, courses and resources available to attend after they’ve had their babies. Victoria has been signposted to mum and baby, breastfeeding and baby development groups in her area to attend whenever she’s ready. She can also attend make-up, exercise and flower arranging classes aimed at preventing social isolation and giving new mums some time for themselves. There are also financial management classes which offer debt advice and food clubs for families experiencing financial hardship which offer weekly food, toiletry and baby supply packs worth £30 for £3.50 run by The Big Help Project at Dr Maassarani’s Surgery.
“Even now David is here we have had some feeding and sleeping problems so I have contacted Sonia who has told me about some feeding groups and offered advice on sleeping. Once I feel up for it I will attend some of the mum and baby groups such as baby massage. I’m so grateful to have had someone to contact and point me in the direction of all these things as I was unaware of most of them.” Victoria Dobie
COLLABORATION AND CARE
Catherine McClennan, Programme Director for the Women’s and Children’s Services Partnership Vanguard, ‘Improving Me’, says “There is so much support available for parents and caregivers which is great but it is fragmented and women can often feel overwhelmed and unsure of which will be most relevant to them. Our programme is all about improving experiences through collaboration and care at a time when women are feeling most vulnerable. This partnership with Elemental Software will provide an opportunity to further help women and their families outside of their traditional maternity care.”
“Women and families have told us that they don’t always know what is available or where and when to access it, so we hope to empower them to ensure that they are fully informed, engaged and encouraged to be as healthy as possible in pregnancy, birth and beyond.”
“Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy. They affect 10-15 in every 100 women in the UK so to see projects like Baby Box succeeding makes us extremely proud to be their digital social prescribing partner. It’s all about collaborating to pool resources, reviewing what’s available for the patient, giving them choice and making those connections for them. It’s a fantastic project and we’ve loved working with Cath, Sonia and the entire team”. Leeann Monk Ozgul, Co-CEO Elemental Software