Peer support in perinatal mental health: evidence review

This internship project report reviews the evidence base for peer support in perinatal mental health, considering evidence of effectiveness, models of support currently in place and potential ways of further developing peer support in Scotland.

Annex 4: Evaluation evidence for Scottish Perinatal Mental Health Services

Nurture the Borders

Nurture the Borders use the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale to evaluate their service. Nurture the Borders Annual Report states 'The average score of our service users at point of entry into service is 33. We see an average improvement of 15 points on exiting the service.' (Nurture the Borders, 2019).

This service is valued highly in the local area, with endorsements from health visitors, midwifery, social work and mental health services. Nurture the Borders' Cherish Project was also the winner of the 2019 MAMA Award for "Specialist Maternity Service of the Year" sponsored by The Royal College of Midwives.

Home Start Scotland

Home Start services use their own evaluative measure of family wellbeing, a 5 point scale across 4 domains, children's wellbeing, family management, parent's wellbeing and parenting skills. Their 2019 impact report (Home Start Scotland, 2019) reports average improvements of 1-1.5 points for families across the 4 domains.

Home Start Glasgow North ran a perinatal mental health peer-support project in 2014 targeted at women with perinatal mental health difficulties. In an area of socioeconomic deprivation, the service found that many referrals were for highly vulnerable women with pre-existing serious mental health problems or complex histories. The service delivered increases in parenting confidence for women as well as a rise in their personal confidence, self-worth and self-esteem. Issues of isolation and barriers to accessing additional supports were drastically reduced (Heywood, Sloan 2016). The results of this study regarding women's experiences must be interpreted with caution due to the very small sample sizes (4 interviews with women using the service).


Aberlour based their Perinatal Befriending Support Service on evidence from the Family Action Perinatal Support Project, run at four sites in England and found to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and promoting warmth in mother-infant interactions and improving social support (Barlow, 2012).

In 2016, Aberlour worked with the University of Stirling to evaluate their pilot Perinatal Befriending Support Service, finding that the service was linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression, greater warmth and less invasiveness in the mother-child relationship. Qualitative evidence also demonstrated increasing self-confidence and willingness to take part in social activities for the women supported by the service (Cheyne et al., 2016). The results of this study must be interpreted with caution due to the very small sample sizes (14 questionnaire measures, 9 interviews). The pilot was successful and the service has continued to expand over the last four years, consistently facing increasing demand and a waiting list for support.


Quarriers Maternal Mental Wellbeing Service conducted a qualitative evaluation of their service with the University of Stirling, which returned positive feedback on the service (Lucas et al., 2019). However low response rates mean this can't be considered a robust evaluation of the effectiveness of the service.



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