Mothers with a learning disability: their experiences of service provision during the postnatal period
Wilson, Suzanne Elizabeth
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Introduction: There is growing evidence that many parents with learning disabilities, when given adequate support, can parent successfully. Childbirth is a significant life event that marks a woman's transition to motherhood and is a time when parents first learn to nurture their children. Postnatal care aims to facilitate this learning experience as well as promote the emotional and physical well-being of both infant and mother. To date, no research has explored the support mothers with learning disabilities receive during the postnatal period. To fill this gap in the research and help inform service provision, this study aims to explore how mothers with learning disabilities experience postnatal care. Method: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with six mothers with learning disabilities. The data were collected and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Results: Mothers experiences of postnatal care were conceptualised within four superordinate themes: challenges of providing support, how support was delivered , learning to cope and challenges to building trust. All of these had accompanying subthemes. Discussion: The results are discussed in the context of relevant literature. Consistent with previous research which has been carried out with parents with learning disabilities, participants were found to be highly dependent on informal support. The participants acknowledged the value of professional input and their perceptions of how this support was delivered had important implications. Learning how to cope with the demands of their new role raised issues not dissimilar to those of parents without learning disabilities. Challenges, however, were faced in establishing trusting relationships with professionals. The findings were found to have implications for clinical practice which are described and suggestions for future research made. Conclusion: The findings suggest that participant informal supports play a key role during the initial stages of parenthood particularly with providing practical support in areas which present challenges. Professional input was valued when delivered according to the typical pathway of care post-birth. It is recommended that consideration is given to how the support is delivered to participants. This should essentially seek to empower parents rather than undermine them as how support was perceived by parents impacted on their subsequent engagement with professionals.