What was this research?
We evaluated the impact of Birth Companions Community Link project. This project worked with vulnerable women through pregnancy, birth and immediately afterwards to improve their mental wellbeing, reduce social isolation and supported them to give their babies the best possible start in life. We conducted a literature review on what works to support vulnerable women during pregnancy, birth and immediately post-birth. We also conducted interviews with women who used the Community Link service and referring agencies alongside Birth Companion staff / volunteers. We built them a Theory of Change model so they could assess their work against intermediate and long term outcomes.
Why was this research important?
There is little evidence of the impact that antenatal, birth and postnatal support has on outcomes for women facing the range of challenges that are experienced by women at the Birth Companions Community Link project. Our project worked with women who faced social isolation, mental health problems, immigration and asylum issues, housing problems, a history of abuse and substance misuse. The women we interviewed were frequently socially isolated during their pregnancy, labour and the first weeks of new parenthood, compounding the risk to their own mental wellbeing and the wellbeing of their baby. Our research was commissioned to help Birth Companions identify the things that work well to support women in this situation, and current gaps in support in order to improve their Community Links service.
What were we doing?
Our evaluation was made up of three main strands of work:
- A literature review to look at ‘what works’ to support women who face multiple challenges as the women who access the Community Link project do. We will look at what support is effective during pregnancy, birth and post-birth. We will also look at reports and other grey literature to find out what other organisations say about this.
- We interviewed 20 women who accessed the Community Link project to ask them about their experiences. We also asked about the challenges they faced and what helped them.
- We interviewed 15 professionals from agencies who work with Birth Companions, including midwives and social workers. We asked them about their experiences and what impact they think Birth Companions had on the women they worked with. In addition we interviewed five Birth Companion staff / volunteers
An advisory group made up of women who had previously used the Community Link service, Birth Companions staff and volunteers also contributed to the evaluation.
What is the current status of the project?
We completed data collection for the project spring 2015 with a final report submitted to Birth Companions in July 2015. We continued to work with Birth Companions to edit the documents and final submissions were made November 2015. The final report can be read here:
Who do I contact for more information?
If you would like more information about the study, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org