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The development and initial validation of the Perinatal Mental Health Awareness scale in student midwives

Abstract

Background & aim: Perinatal mental health problems have been demonstrated to impact upon maternal, and fetal/child outcomes. Despite the global evidence and a policy-driven responsibility for identification of these problems, research demonstrates that student midwives/midwives lack knowledge and confidence to assess, identify, and manage them. A similar context is evident for learning disabilities, despite the holistic care philosophy of midwifery. A brief assessment tool to identify knowledge and confidence defecits and strengths within a holistic care framework could support curriculum development. This study sought to develop a Perinatal Mental Health Awareness scale and evaluate its psychometric properties in student midwives.Methods: We employed a cross-sectional and exploratory instrument development and evaluation design to determine the measurement veracity of the new scale.Results: The scale demonstrated good psychometric properties, revealing three subscales mapping onto (i) mental health symptoms, (ii) physical/medical issues and (iii) learning disability. Results indicated a clear differentiation in scores across the subscales, indicating comparative deficits in mental health domains.Conclusion: Our findings facilitate confidence in the psychometric robustness of the measure. The scale enables student midwives to assess and compare different domains of midwifery practice, in line with a holistic model of midwifery care. A focus on physical health in midwifery education appears to disadvantage knowledge and confidence for managing mental health problems in a midwifery context. This valuable finding highlights the potential need for curriculum rebalancing. The measure offers the opportunity to assess and develop curriculum/training provision and monitor the effectiveness of subsequent curricular developments

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