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“Nobody listened”. Mothers’ experiences and needs regarding professional support prior to their admission to an infant mental health day clinic

Nuyts, T., Van Haeken, S., Crombag, N., Singh, B., Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460, Garthus-Niegel, S., Braeken, M. A. K. A. and Bogaerts, A. (2021). “Nobody listened”. Mothers’ experiences and needs regarding professional support prior to their admission to an infant mental health day clinic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(20), 10917. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182010917


Challenges during the perinatal period can lead to maternal distress, negatively affecting mother-infant interaction. This study aims to retrospectively explore the experiences and needs regarding professional support of mothers with difficulties in mother-infant interaction prior to their admission to an infant mental health day clinic. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 mothers who had accessed an infant mental health day clinic because of persistent severe infant regulatory problems impairing the wellbeing of the infant and the family. Data were transcribed and analyzed using the Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven (QUAGOL). Three themes were identified: ‘experience of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood’; ‘difficult care paths’; and ‘needs and their fulfillment’. The first theme consisted of three subthemes: (1) ‘reality does not meet expectations’, (2) ‘resilience under pressure’, and (3) ‘despair’. Mothers experienced negative feelings that were in contradiction to the expected positive emotions associated with childbirth and motherhood. Resilience-related problems affected the mother-child relationship, and infants’ regulatory capacities. Determined to find solutions, different healthcare providers were consulted. Mothers’ search for help was complex and communication between healthcare providers was limited because of a fragmented care provision. This hindered the continuity of care and appropriate referrals. Another pitfall was the lack of a broader approach, with the emphasis on the medical aspects without attention to the mother-child dyad. An integrated care pathway focusing on the early detection of resilience-related problems and sufficient social support can be crucial in the prevention and early detection of perinatal and infant mental health problems.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: infant mental health; perinatal mental health; resilience; infant-parent interaction; healthcare organization; regulatory dysfunction; holistic health; delivery of health care integrated
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
Date available in CRO: 04 Nov 2021 11:35
Date deposited: 4 November 2021
Date of acceptance: 13 October 2021
Date of first online publication: 17 October 2021
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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