We talk about “evidence-based” services a lot, but for social interventions such as our Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS) it can be difficult to find proof that the service is successful without resorting to anecdotes and self-reported data.
However, a group of researchers at the University of Birmingham, funded by CLAHRC (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Research and Care) West Midlands, have recently published their findings from a clinical study into the POW service – and we’re very pleased to note that it shows clear statistical evidence of benefit to the women we support, particularly with regards to their mental health.
The research took the form of a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) – the most academically rigorous way of determining whether a cause-effect relation exists between treatment and outcome.
It looked at 1324 women, some of whom received standard maternity care and some of whom were supported by POWS, and compared outcomes such as antenatal attendance, postnatal depression and mother-to-infant bonding.
The study found that mother-to-infant bonding is better when mum has the support of a POW.
It also found that, for women who have two or more social risk factors, the intervention of a Pregnancy Outreach Worker was beneficial in preventing postnatal depression.
The study adds, “this finding is important for women and their families given the known effect of maternal depression on longer term childhood outcomes”. It concludes:
This trial provides evidence that a lay support service targeted to women with two or more social risk factors improves aspects of maternal psychological health relative to controls; such improvements are likely to be of lasting impact due to the known effect of maternal depression and poor attachment on longer term childhood outcomes.
This, together with the relatively low costs of the service, means that consideration should be given by policymakers to introduction of a lay support service.
When the trial was being carried out, we worked with a much wider group of women than we do now. The research showed that our interventions have the biggest impact on women with two more more social risk factors – and it is this group that we now work with exclusively.
Our POWs work hard to offer early help to women who are at risk; to make sure that baby arrives safely, and to support mum to be the best parent she possibly can. This study is incredibly helpful in validating the work our brilliant POWs do, and we’re delighted to see it published.