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Supporting multiple birth families

Multiple births can be the cause of a number of complications for mothers and families, which are currently not adequately supported by health services. Health Visitors (HV) can have a positive impact on these families, but there are no current guidelines on the extra support needed to support multiple birth cases. This study aims to provide contemporary evidence to support the development of policy, HV education and service provision to provide effective, individualised care and support for multiple birth families.

Supporting multiple birth families large

Researchers 

  • Dr Merryl Harvey, Professor of Nursing and Family Health, Birmingham City University / Co-lead Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre
  • Jane Denton, Director of the Multiple Births Foundation / Co-lead Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre
  • Lara Alamad
  • Dr Robert Cook
  • Dr Cheryll Adams, Director of the Institute of Health Visiting

Research background 

Funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, the study was a collaboration between the Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre (EBMBC) and the Institute for Health Visiting (iHV).

Multiple births present an increased risk of complications for the mother and her babies, which can affect family life and wellbeing. Many multiples are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks) and this can have an adverse impact on adaptation to family life. Adapting to parenthood and caring for two (or more) children of the same age presents parents with physical, emotional, practical and economic challenges and the first year can be particularly difficult. Evidence-based support from HVs during the early years, therefore, has the potential to promote family wellbeing. However, the support provided by HVs is variable and often does not meet the needs of multiple birth families. There is a lack of guidance or standards for healthcare professionals generally and HVs in particular on the longer-term care and support needs of multiple birth families. The extent to which the needs of these families are currently addressed in HV curricula and professional development is unknown.

There has been limited research involving healthcare professionals generally and HVs specifically to explore their experiences supporting multiple birth families. In order to develop evidence-based multiple birth services, it is important to understand the HV perspective and the challenges they face. More broadly, contemporary evidence is required to support the development of policy, HV education and service provision to provide effective, individualised care and support for multiple birth families

Research aims 

The aim of this research was to establish an evidence base of health visitor experiences and perceptions supporting multiple birth families. The project had the following objectives:

  • To explore the current practice of health visitors working in the United Kingdom supporting multiple birth families
  • To explore the nature and extent of education and professional development received by health visitors working in the United Kingdom about supporting multiple birth families
  • To inform health visitor practice to improve the provision of care and support to multiple birth families.

Research methods

A cross-sectional, online survey of currently practising Health Visitors (HV) in the United Kingdom (UK) was undertaken using a questionnaire via ‘Online Surveys’.

Recruitment:

The participants were recruited by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and the Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre (EBMBC). Health Visitors were emailed by the iHV with the survey link and participant information leaflet. The survey was promoted via social media. The EBMBC promoted the survey via the EBMBC webpages, Special Interest Group and the Multiple Birth Foundation.

Data collection:

The survey was open to participants for 17 weeks during 2019. The questionnaire consisted of closed questions and Likert scales. Some open questions were also included to capture participant experiences.

The questions in the survey related to:

  • Participant demographic information such as date qualified as a health visitor, case load, number of multiple birth families on their case load, county and type of location of practice (inner city, town or rural).
  • Participant perceptions of the needs and challenges faced by multiple birth families.
  • The challenges that participants encounter when supporting multiple birth families.
  • The nature and extent of any educational or professional development the participants had received about supporting multiple birth families.
  • Participant identification of any continuing professional development they felt they needed about supporting multiple birth families. 

Results

The data is currently being analysed and the report for the Burdett Trust is being finalised.