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Case study: Clinical trial gave Sutton mum a social lifeline during lockdown

Leianne Wickham spoke about her experience of taking part in the Pregnancy Circles trial.

Mum-of-three Leianne Wickham has spoken about how taking part in a clinical research study in south London benefited her mental health during lockdown.

She took part in the REACH Pregnancy Circles programme at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, which is a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio study supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South London.

The study aims to bring together a group of eight to 12 pregnant women at similar stages in their pregnancy for clinical care, information sharing or social support. Leianne gave birth to her daughter, Felicity, at St Helier Hospital in January this year. The 34-year-old from Carshalton, Sutton, said:

“I can’t fault the care I received from Epsom and St Helier’s maternity team and from the midwives involved in this research. All of the mums became really close friends during our pregnancies and we are still ever so grateful for the wonderful care that we received from the trust. I would definitely consider taking part in another research study if I was to have another baby, and other pregnant women should consider taking part in clinical trials as knowledge is power.

“The mums’ WhatsApp group provided me with a lifeline during lockdown, which was a really scary time. My partner, Daniel, and I only left our home to collect food as we were worried about passing the virus onto Felicity. However, the support I received from the other mums gave me the confidence and reassurance I needed to get through what has been a really difficult period of my life.

“We are one supportive team. If anyone has a question, the other mums will pitch in to help one another through our WhatsApp group. We use the messaging platform to share baby milestone videos and pictures to keep one another updated on the progress of our little ones.”

The educational programme to run the Pregnancy Circles was created by the REACH Pregnancy Team. Women are taught in classes to check their own blood pressure and urine to spot potential signs of pre-eclampsia, which can cause fatal high blood pressure both during and after pregnancy.

Epsom Hospital Consultant Midwife Louise Emmett, who is Principal Investigator on the Pregnancy Circles trial, said: “We want to engage and empower women through this trial by putting them in control of their care, providing peer support and better communication, with the aim of improving the overall health and wellbeing of our mums to be.

“I’m proud that we have been able to help Leianne, little Felicity and her partner Daniel. I hope the results of this study will go on to deliver benefits for many more women.”

The Pregnancy Circles trial is led by the University of East London and Barts Health NHS Trust in collaboration with three other universities and 12 NHS Trusts. You can find out more about the Pregnancy Circles programme online.