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Mothers face lack of support in early-stage pregnancy


Research sampled diverse range of pregnant women in Glasgow's Govan

A new study interviewing expectant mothers in Govan suggests they are not getting the support they need during the early stages of pregnancy.

Together for Childhood Govan’s new report Understanding Early Pregnancy Support in Govan, published on the NSPCC Learning website, sheds light on women’s experiences during early pregnancy .

Govan-based researchers spoke with 13 new and expectant parents for the research. These included parents from diverse backgrounds, including age, immigration status and ethnicity, to ensure that different voices were heard.

Together for Childhood (TfC) is an NSPCC 10-year initiative that uses a place-based approach to build and sustain local community partnerships to prevent child abuse and neglect. In Scotland, TfC operates in Govan, a community in the southwest of Glasgow. There are three other sites across the UK these are in Grimsby, Plymouth and Stoke-on-Trent.

The research finds that although there is a strong policy framework from the Scottish Government in place to support expectant parents, there is a disconnect between these policies and the reality experienced by parents. Some women are unable to access some services, such as translation, until the later stages of pregnancy or even birth.

The research suggests that parents experience a multitude of anxieties during the early days of pregnancy which, if not addressed, can have lasting impacts on how prepared and supported they feel for the rest of their pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

Speaking of the need for support and information from when they found out they were expecting a baby, one participant said: “Anything over and above [the 12-week check-up], I wasn’t made aware of; from any professional or any organisation.”

Another said that further support that would have been hugely impactful included access to antenatal classes. They said: “If they were available to me, that would have made quite an impact on how I coped with the baby when they were born.”

Another participant said they felt a “little bit forgotten about” when they had a subsequent child but they needed even more support because they were now also caring for young children while pregnant.

Lorna Ruxton, who lives in Govan, was one of the participants in the study. She suffered an early pregnancy loss before two successful pregnancies, the second of which was during the Covid pandemic. That early loss added anxiety to the next pregnancies.

Talking about her third pregnancy, she said she was told to book a 12-week scan with a midwife, so didn’t see a health professional until then.

Lorna said: “That’s a long time to wait and added to the anxiety.

“I think there can be a fear that you are not really pregnant. It’s a long time to not know for sure. And because of superstition, we don’t always talk to friends and family until after the 12-week stage.

“Earlier appointments would be ideal. That official confirmation makes a big difference.  It would also give you a chance to ask what to expect and what pregnancy care looks like. With my first child I didn’t really have a clue what was going to happen.

“We should be more open to talk about early pregnancies. People think of it as being bad luck, but there’s a lot of anxiety and stress to deal with, and there’s not always an outlet for dealing with it.”

Prajapa Seneviratne, lead researcher on the project, said: “There is a lot to celebrate in Scotland when it comes to care for new parents, but many in this research told us some of that support doesn’t start until well into pregnancy or after the baby is born.

“The early weeks and months of pregnancy is a pivotal time for expectant parents as they are likely to have more questions. They told us they had fears around giving birth, being able to afford a new baby, not having family close at hand, and being newly arrived in Scotland.

“Most importantly, the research shows us how unique and diverse parents’ experiences of pregnancy are, and the value of listening to the voices and experiences of expectant parents to shape the way we support them to suit their needs.”



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