Characteristics and service needs of women and babies admitted to residential parenting units in New South Wales: A mixed-methods study

J Clin Nurs. 2018 Aug;27(15-16):2963-2973. doi: 10.1111/jocn.14497. Epub 2018 May 30.


Aims and objectives: To examine the characteristics and service needs of women and babies admitted to residential parenting services (RPS) in the first year following birth in New South Wales, Australia.

Background: In Australia, there is a tiered system to support maternal, child and family health, which includes RPS.

Design: Sequential explanatory mixed-methods design.

Methods: Individual patient data were obtained from a random review of 10% of all medical records (n = 300 of 3,011 admissions) of women with an infant of <12 months of age who were admitted to RPS in 2013. Following review of the medical records, qualitative data were collected via interviews with eight women who accessed RPS. Chi-square analysis and Student's t test were used to analyse quantitative data. Qualitative data were analysed using a descriptive interpretive approach. An integrative approach was taken in reporting the findings.

Results: Women admitted to the RPS were on average 32 years of age, were Australian born (72%) and had a university qualification (40%), and most were employed. The majority of women were primiparous (60%) and had a vaginal birth (61%). Women with male infants were much more likely to be admitted to the RPS (58%) compared to the NSW male-to-female ratio (51.3% vs. 48.7%). Over 50% of women reported mental health issues with 27% having an Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score ≥13 on admission. The primary reason women sought parenting support was for sleep and settling (83%). During their stay, services used by women included social workers (44%), psychologists (52%) and psychiatrists (4.5%).

Conclusion: Women who access RPS report psychosocial and mental health issues. Services provided by RPS support women during this challenging early parenting period by providing multidisciplinary, holistic and peer support.

Relevance to clinical practice: A high prevalence of mental health issues identified in this study indicated a need for ongoing training and support for RPS staff. Ensuring clinicians have the appropriate skill sets to best support their clientele will maximise the outcomes for women and families who access RPS during the early parenting period.

Keywords: Caesarean section; early parenting; perinatal mental health; residential parenting services; sleep and settling.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal-Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Needs Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research