Peer Support Through Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond

two smiling mums holding their babies

Finding out that you're about to be a parent can be a rollercoaster! Along with feeling happy and excited, you may also feel overwhelmed, worried or stressed.

You may be concerned about your financial situation or living arrangements, or you might feel unsure about what might happen during labour and birth, how to care for a baby and prepare for the other changes ahead. These feelings are all 100% normal!

However, these feelings can become overwhelming and impact our mental health and daily lives.

If you feel you're struggling, then reaching out to your midwife or health visitor is a great first step. They can help you access professional services as well as signpost to other community-based services such as parent groups or 1:1 peer support.

Peer Support

Peer support is informal support and reassurance from another (trained and supervised) parent to walk the journey of pregnancy, birth and up to the first year afterwards with you.

The evidence that peer support offers a unique and invaluable contribution to achieving healthier pregnancies, better births and happier babies is overwhelming. Quality peer support can nurture the confidence of parents to develop their resilience, knowledge and skills to give their babies the best possible start in life, leading to better outcomes for both parents and babies.

Peer supporters try to engage as early as possible in pregnancy and can help parents to communicate their worries or needs. It does not replace professional support but instead sits alongside and often provides a 'bridge' to help parents to access beneficial services.

They often translate medical jargon and explain processes and options to parents. They are there to help parents to prepare before the birth and can be alongside them to reassure and ensure they are not alone during the birth. After the birth they can then be there to listen and provide practical support.

By engaging with the parent as early as possible in pregnancy, peer supporters aim to continue that support through labour, birth and a few months afterwards. Many parents feel able to open up and discuss things they may not feel comfortable talking through with others:

"She is very kind, helpful and a great listener and she gives me space to talk. Having mental health issues is very isolating, so knowing my peer supporter is there for me has really helped. She understands me so well." (Parent)

You can talk to them about becoming a parent, relationships, housing, or financial stresses and they can help you mentally and practically prepare for labour and birth, and those early days of parenthood. 

Peer supporters are also different to family or friends, they’re there to provide non-judgemental, informal support and share evidence-based resources, useful tips and experiences. They can also help you to access local services in your area or extra professional support, should you need it. 

Peer support aims to help parents to feel valued, supported and socially connected. Most importantly, though, peer supporters listen but don't judge.

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What Does It Involve?

Peer support varies by the provider; it may be offered in a group setting or 1:1, accessed virtually or face to face. Peer support is usually provided by an 'experienced' parent; many have been through difficult times themselves and want to simply help other parents to make it a smoother journey.

You may be thinking that this is not for you. However, feeling overwhelmed, or anxious during this time is more common than you may think and support from parents who've 'been there' can be really beneficial. It can help to normalise the challenges mums and dads often face and build your confidence as a parent.

"She has given me confidence and empowered me. We have been on such a journey together. I feel much better than I did." (Parent)

It's really important to think about your own network of support during this exciting, special but often challenging time, and know it's ok to reach out to other parents for mutual support along the way.

If you'd like to find out more about peer support, please visit www.parents1st.org.uk.

There are many organisations that offer peer support for mums, dads, birthing people and partners. Please use the Hearts & Minds Partnership map to find a group near you.

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