Autistic women's experiences of community perinatal mental health teams
Mood Disorders Centre Think Tank Seminar Series
Our guest speaker is Verity Westgate from the University of Exeter
|A Mood Disorders Centre seminar
|9 February 2024
|12:00 to 13:00
|Mood Disorders Centre
I will present my current plans for my PhD which explores autistic women’s experiences of accessing community perinatal mental health services and how their specific needs can best be met by the healthcare professionals working within these services.
Country-wide access to community perinatal mental health teams is a relatively recent phenomenon following additional funding in 2018/2019. Community perinatal mental health teams in England have been the subject of recent research by the ESMI (The Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Community Perinatal Mental Health Services) studies but the experiences of autistic women were not a specific focus. Autistic people are more likely to experience mental illness and are therefore likely to be overrepresented in perinatal teams’ caseload. However, the needs of autistic mothers may differ from other mothers accessing these teams: autistic people typically find accessing general healthcare challenging and experience worse health outcomes. In addition, they often have sensory differences that can impact their experience of the perinatal period.
I will carry out three studies looking at the perspectives of autistic women themselves, the staff supporting them, and their partners, in order to develop of recommendations for services providing care to autistic women.
In the second half of my presentation, I will present the results of my mixed methods systematic review that explored autistic women’s experiences of the perinatal period. Three major themes and one minor theme were identified: sensory demands of the perinatal period are frequently overwhelming; experiencing healthcare as an autistic person is difficult; parenting as an autistic mother has many challenges but also rewards; predictability and control are important in labour and birth.