A new survey shows how online project Facemums has provided vital support for new mothers and pregnant women during the coronavirus pandemic, with one woman describing it as a ‘life line’.
Facemums invites pregnant women to join private Facebook groups for support as they prepare to give birth and for up to six weeks after their baby arrives. As coronavirus has restricted face-to-face contact in the last few months, this support is becoming ever more important.
The groups provide women with information and advice from other new and expectant mums, with registered midwives moderating the groups to make sure that health information shared, is accurate and timely.
The two-year project is led by Dr Rose McCarthy and Dr Lesley Choucri, funded by Health Education England (HEE) and co-ordinated by the University of Salford. Facemums now has more than sixty trained midwives who in turn have supported nearly 600 women. In the last two months, the project has welcomed the arrival of more than 100 babies.
As lockdown took effect across the UK, project co-ordinators at the university helped a number of NHS Trusts set up new coronavirus response groups, informed by the practices and principles of Facemums. These groups not only helped women find the information they needed, but also meant midwives who couldn’t work in clinical settings (i.e. those needing to shield) had the opportunity to continue providing care online.
Danielle Butler, Facemums Project Officer at the University of Salford, said: “Social media based support has become so important to expectant mothers in this time as face-to-face midwifery services have been drastically reduced. The team at the University of Salford is so pleased that we can continue to provide training and ongoing support to enable this to happen.”
Led by Dr John Chatwin, Research Fellow at the University of Salford, the Facemums project team also undertook a rapid piece of research to understand how, if at all, being part of one of these groups during the pandemic had impacted members’ experiences of pregnancy.
Over 150 Facemums users responded to the survey, and a key finding was that being in a group enabled them to access support much more quickly in a time where they were conscious of the strain on midwives in clinical settings. They also felt less of a burden and noted that being in a group had reduced their stress and anxiety, especially those which were triggered by a lack of information, or misinformation.
One participant said: “It’s been great over this challenging time. I think all maternity services should have an online support group like this”, and other explained that “It’s been my life line in these uncertain times.”