Year: 2021 Source: Journal of Clinical Nursing. (2021). 30(9-10), 1403-1416. doi: 10.1111/jocn.15690. SIEC No: 20210333

Aims and objectives: To explore midwives’ experiences of caring for women’s emotional and mental well-being during pregnancy.

Background: Transitioning to motherhood is a major life event for any woman and while it is a joyful experience for the majority, 15%-25% of women will experience a perinatal mental health problem. Providing psychological support to mothers by midwives is acknowledged internationally. The 2016 Irish National Maternity Strategy identifies midwives as being ideally placed to assess women’s emotional needs. The research revealed a paucity of qualitative research from an Irish context in this area; therefore, this study addressed this gap in the literature.

Design: Qualitative descriptive design.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 10 midwives recruited from the Irish midwifery e-group. Data were analysed using Burnard (Nurse Educ. Today, 11, 1991, 461) thematic content analysis. Transcripts were coded, and meanings were formulated to reflect significant statements, which were categorised. Categories were then evolved into subthemes, and eventually, three themes were emerged using the COREQ checklist.

Results: Three salient themes emerged from the data are as follows: ‘awareness of Perinatal Mental Health’, ‘discussing emotional well-being’ and ‘the woman has something to divulge’. The themes convey the midwife’s awareness, recognition and perceptions of mental well-being during pregnancy. How midwives discuss and assess emotional well-being, the observational skills they use, and what they perceive as the barriers and facilitators to discussing mental well-being were all identified.

Conclusions: Midwives reported an awareness and acceptance that women’s emotional health was as important as their physical health. Midwives used every antenatal opportunity to raise awareness about perinatal mental health, whilst also identifying key challenges in getting women to talk.

Relevance to clinical practice: Care pathways for assessing and identifying Perinatal Mental Health issues should be available in all maternity services. More support for midwives is required to debrief, which would assist them in supporting women’s emotional well-being.