What: Making Every Contact Count – Using social media based communities to support new mothers.

Who: Rosemary McCarthy

Background: Rose is a clinical academic midwife who continues to champion advocacy for women during pregnancy and childbirth both within the UK and internationally. She has specific interests in women’s education as a driver of health care transformation, particularly through the use of social media and international development.

Approach: Promotion/Prevention

Location: University of Salford , School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work and Social Sciences , Wythenshawe Hospital UHSM NHS FT

Speciality: Maternity Services

What initiative are you involved in?

This project brings together pregnant and newly delivered women via a secret Facebook site for support and information sharing during pregnancy and the early days of motherhood. The site is moderated by a registered midwife to ensure that the health information shared is accurate and timely. The aim is to develop a community of practice of mothers who will act as health champions of the future, not only in their own families but beyond and into the wider community. The groups appear to be the first midwife moderated social media based community for pregnant and newly delivered mothers.

What prompted the work?

Mothers are well placed to be health champions, they are highly motivated in pregnancy to make healthy lifestyle choices, and they seek out information and respond positively to health messages. Unfortunately however, at times they are overwhelmed with the volume of available information and are not always able to differentiate high quality evidence based information from myth and anecdote.

80% of births in the UK are to mothers aged 34 and below (ONS 2013) and this community abundantly use social networking sites. Therefore we proposed that cultivating a social media based maternal community, supported by a midwife would provide a contemporary approach to accessing and sharing accurate health care information, with the potential to grow a maternal community of health champions.

How did you initiate the work?

The idea was written up as a research proposal and submitted for a Forerunner Project award from Health Education North West. The proposal was received positively and monies were secured to find one full time researcher (Rose McCarthy) and 4 part time midwife moderators.

Several NHS Trusts were approached to act as the pilot site linked with each Facebook group and St Mary’s Hospital, Central Manchester Foundation Trust and Princess Anne maternity Unit, Bolton Foundation Trust were enthusiastic about using social media to support and inform their maternity service users.

NHS ethical approval was sought and obtained, midwives were recruited for the moderation roles and the two Facebook sites were developed. During their initial contact with midwives, pregnant women were given information and invited to join the study, and in June 2015 Bolton and St Mary’s Facemums were born.

Recruitment to the study was more difficult than anticipated, over 150 women were approached but we failed to recruit to full capacity in both sites. Feedback from the initial focus groups suggests that this could have been due to the research element of the project. The women stated that they found the consent form off-putting and the time commitment to give feedback via interview and focus groups was significant and potentially off putting. This would not be necessary beyond the initial pilot. Evaluation could be via a simple questionnaire and online data analysis (if required).

This service has been possible due to the HEE financial support, the biggest cost incurred has been the researchers funding, but funding the midwife moderators allowed the project to get up and running.

What difference has the project or initiative made?

The study is part of an incomplete research study and finishes at the end of May. However 4 focus groups have been undertaken, 2 face to face and 2 online, as well as 2 of 27 individual interviews have been conducted. All willing participants will be interviewed before the end of the pilot project or within 6 weeks of birth.

The initial feedback is overwhelmingly positive with clear evidence that the women have found the group an excellent source of information and support. There is clear evidence that the group members share the site information beyond the immediate group, and important public health messages are being shared in the wider community.

Topics discussed at length have included diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, hand hygiene, flu and whooping cough vaccines, infant feeding and all aspects of maternity care.

What are the long-term objectives?

To roll out this initiative and find a sustainable model to use not only within maternity services, but with other groups who may be able to act as health champions.

In the immediate short term, we plan to invite Health visitors to replace the moderating role of the midwives as they are more appropriate/relevant for the mothers after the postnatal period.