Open Road Recovery Worker, Scarlett Doherty tells us about an Essex STaRs health initiative, based at our Open Road Colchester centre and how it supports pregnant clients.

At the beginning of this year and at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we noticed a surge in the number of pregnant clients within the Colchester centre. A more intensive approach was needed to ensure these clients got the right amount of support throughout their pregnancies.   Essex STaRS started a perinatal clinic whereby, clients were to be seen monthly by the consultant psychiatrist, STaRS nurse/family practitioner, specialist midwife and obstetrician.  This combined approach was taken to allow the clients to be seen by different services in one session and for services to liaise with each other and check on the client’s progress.

As this clinic began, Open Road recovery workers were invited to attend with their clients to be involved in the joint support approach. I and my colleague Emma, having 4 or 5 pregnant clients each on our caseloads, have found this a very useful tool.  As well as being able to deliver psychosocial interventions and complete relevant actions needed, it has allowed us to interact with the clients in a more intensive manner and be involved in their pregnancies in a positive light.  For example, I have been in these appointments and listened to a client’s baby’s heartbeat, which was amazing and so special to have witnessed.  It has been really rewarding to see how far some of these clients have come and the progress they have made throughout their pregnancy.

Client feedback has already been really positive.  AS said attending the perinatal clinic “has been great and they are very supportive and friendly”. RB has only attended one appointment so far but says she finds it useful “having everybody there and if you need the extra support, it’s there”.  NE reported that “the consultant was great, he has always been really good with me and very supportive”.

Emma and I discussed how we would like this kind of support to continue beyond their pregnancies as the support needs will still be there once the babies are born.  We are currently planning a parent and child support group to follow on from the perinatal clinic to encourage positive outcomes.  We have attended a meeting with the Mulberry Tree as a premises for this group to take place.  During this group, we are hoping to have other services attend on some days to deliver sessions such as baby massage and music and movement.  However, essentially we just want to offer some extra support for these parents who may be experiencing feelings of isolation and may benefit from speaking to those in a similar situation to them in a welcoming and child friendly setting. We have mentioned this group to some of our pregnant clients.  AS said she is “looking forward to the parent and baby group and would like to attend”, while RB said she is ‘definitely interested and think it’s a good idea”. We are really excited about this group and keen to get it started in the next coming months.


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