The role and competence of midwives in supporting women with mental health concerns during the perinatal period: A scoping review

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Journal Article
Health and Social Care in the Community, 2019, 27 (4), pp. e389 - e405
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© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Perinatal mental health problems are linked to poor outcomes for mothers, babies and families. Despite a recognition of the significance of this issue, women often do not receive the care they need and fall between the gap of maternity and mental health services. To address this, there is a call for reform in the way in which perinatal mental healthcare is delivered. This paper responds to this by exploring the role and competence of midwives in delivering mental healthcare. Using a scoping review methodology, quantitative and qualitative evidence were considered to answer the research question ‘what is the nature of the evidence relevant to the provision of mental health interventions by midwives?’ To identify studies, the databases PubMed, Maternity and Infant Care, Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, Medline, Science Direct and CINAHL were searched from 2011 to 2018, and reference lists of included studies were examined. Studies relevant to the role of midwives in the management and treatment of perinatal mental health issues were included; studies focussed on screening and referral were excluded. Thirty papers met inclusion criteria, including studies about the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of midwives and student midwives; the effectiveness of educational interventions in improving knowledge and skills; the delivery of counselling or psychosocial interventions by midwives; and barriers and enablers to embedding midwife-led mental healthcare in practice. Synthesis of the included studies indicates that midwives are interested in providing mental health support, but lack the confidence, knowledge and training to do so. This deficit can be addressed with appropriate training and organisational support, and there is some evidence that midwife-led counselling interventions are effective. Further research is needed to test midwife-led interventions for women with perinatal mental health problems, and to develop and evaluate models of integrated perinatal mental healthcare.
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