“I’m often in a waiting room full of other pregnant women, but there’s no chance to get chatting. So many changes happen to your body during pregnancy, and it would be lovely to be in a group with people at the same stage as me to talk things over with.”
Professor Angela Harden, the trial Chief Investigator, from the IHHD at the University of East London, said the trial is hoping to achieve “healthier babies, including babies being born at the right time and at the right weight, so they’re not a low birth weight, which puts them at greater risk of both immediate problems and later down the line.
“We think there are several mechanisms by which outcomes for both babies and women can be achieved, one of those is about seeing the same midwife throughout their pregnancy. Another factor is having group care so that women can learn from each other. Also, they develop a social network, which takes them through their pregnancy but also beyond birth as well.”
Postnatal depression is one of the outcomes that will be measured in the trial. Professor Harden said, “We think the Pregnancy Circles will work to prevent postnatal depression, as well as providing better outcomes for the babies themselves,”
As midwife Teresa Jones explained, Pregnancy Circles are not only beneficial for the women, but the midwives too.
“Although the essentials are still there, the barriers are taken away, that feels freer; seeing the different ladies and helping them as much as I possibly can. We have the backup of the doctors and the team, if we need them at any point.”
According to Jones, the most significant benefit for women attending is their mental wellbeing. “Often, they come with anxieties and fears, but once they’ve been discussed, they have a safe area to check in with each other and realise that everyone is feeling the same way. It’s a useful way of giving each other support through a conversation and helping them adapt to pregnancy.
Reporter Bobbie Lakhera concluded, “The women I met had a clear bond, despite being from different age groups and backgrounds. They ask questions without being self-conscious, were supportive of each other, and they keep in touch outside of the Circle.”
The trial is led by the University of East London and Barts Health in collaboration with three other universities — Queen Mary University of London, UCL, and City, University of London — and 12 NHS Trusts including the Whittington hospital. Results are expected in late 2021.