Evaluation of Birth Companions perinatal and peer support provision in two prison settings in England: A mixed-methods study

Thomson, Gillian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182, Mortimer, Rose, Baybutt, Michelle orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3201-7021 and Whittaker, Karen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3493-9396 (2022) Evaluation of Birth Companions perinatal and peer support provision in two prison settings in England: A mixed-methods study. International Journal of Prisoner Health . ISSN 1744-9200

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-09-2021-0099


Purpose: In this paper we report on insights from an evaluation of Birth Companions (a UK based charity) perinatal support in two prison settings in England. The initiative involved provision of group and/or one-to-one perinatal support and training women prisoners as peer supporters.
Design/methodology/approach: A mixed-methods study was undertaken that involved observations of support groups and peer support supervision sessions (n=9); audio recorded interviews (n=33) with prison and healthcare staff, women in prison, peer supporters and Birth Companions; analysis of existing routinely collected data by Birth Companions and notes undertaken during regular meetings (n=10) with the Birth Companions Project Manager. Thematic analysis was undertaken supported by MAXQDA qualitative data analysis software.
Findings: Birth Companions provided instrumental/practical support, emotional support, information support, signposting to services, and advocating for women to the prison concerning their perinatal needs and rights. Key themes revealed that support had an impact on the lives of perinatal women by creating a safe place, characterised by meaningful interactions and women centred approaches that facilitated access to wider care and support.
The service made a difference by empowering women and providing added value for peer supporters, prison, health care and Birth Companions staff. Key enablers and strategies for the care of perinatal women and the delivery of perinatal support are also detailed.
Originality: Through longitudinal data and the involvement of a range of stakeholders, this study evidences the subtleties of support provided by Birth Companions and the potential it has to make a difference to perinatal women in prison and those volunteering or working within the prison system.

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