A healthy first 1000 days –the time span between conception and the second birthday—is very important for a person’s lifelong mental and physical health. The mental wellbeing of the mother influences these 1000 days. Therefore having a mother free from mental health complaints is very important. Unfortunately, research shows that 1 in 5 women have clinically meaningful maternal mental health problems. These problems often go unnoticed and thus untreated in pregnancy. That is why, with this study we want to implement a new professional in the perinatal care who will focus on the mental health of the (expecting) mothers, namely the PEPO. PEPO stands for “PErinatale Psychische Ondersteuner” and with this study we will examine whether the introduction of a PEPO can improve early detection, prevention, and treatment of maternal mental health problems in women during the perinatal period.

The PEPO project consists of two sub-projects. The first part entails a qualitative research project, during which mothers join focus groups during which we will further specify the role and working methods of the PEPO. The second part is a quantitative study conducted in midwifery practices in Nijmegen and surroundings. During this phase of the project we investigate whether the introduction of a PEPO, compared to normal care, can detect more maternal mental health problems (MMH), provide more (expecting) mothers the support for MMH and psychosocial problems, can generally improve maternal psychological wellbeing throughout the perinatal periods, and is well-received in the maternity care by both clients as well as perinatal professionals. In addition, we will investigate the effect of implementation of the PEPO on birth outcomes (i.e., gestational age, birth weight, 5-min Apgar), postnatal physical health outcomes, and traumatic birth experiences.

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The following people from our lab are working in this study: Evie Brinkman, Carolina de Weerth, Roseriet Beijers