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  1. Maternal & Child Mental Health
School of Health Sciences

Maternal and Child Mental Health Group

The Maternal and Child Mental Health research group conducts research into the mental health and psychological wellbeing of mothers, their partners and children. Our work has three key areas: identifying mental health needs of women and their families during pregnancy and after birth; improving screening for mental health problems; and innovations in the delivery of mental health care and treatment. 

This multidisciplinary group comprises nine academic and research staff and six doctoral students working on projects ranging from locally focused studies of mental health screening in London to international studies of mental health in women and children. Current and recent research includes examining women's mental health in pregnancy and after birth in developing countries; a national survey of the well-being of parents with very preterm babies; studies of post-traumatic stress disorder in women after birth; and evaluations of internet self-help interventions to reduce postnatal psychological problems.

We have established links with NHS Trusts and user-representative organisations in the United Kingdom (UK), as well as international links with researchers across the world. This includes the International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research, an international research initiative and collaboration which is run by members of this group.


PhD Students


2011 - 2016, Improving quality of care and outcome at very preterm birth. Duley, Abbott, Ayers et al .NIHR programme grant. £1,885,541

2013 - 2015, Using expressive writing interventions to promote mental health in women after birth. Ayers, Crawley et al. NIHR RfPB. £245,451

2010 - 2011, Developmental outcome of preterm infants at 2 years of age. Rabe, McFerran, Ayers et al. NUHR RfPB. £49,849

2008, PTSD after birth. Ayers, McKenzie. McHarg & Slade,Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology seminar grant. £1,000

2007 - 2008, Adjustment to parenthood, mental health & parent-infant interaction. Ayers, Pike & Jessop. British Academy. £79,728



Arnold L, Sawyer S, Rabe H, Abbot J, Gyte G, Duley L & Ayers S. (2013). Parents first moments with their very preterm babies: A qualitative study. BMJ Open, 3(4), doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002487.

Crawley R, Lomax S, & Ayers S. (2013). Recovering from stillbirth: the effects of making and sharing memories on maternal mental health. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 31(2), 195-207.

Jessop D, Craig L & Ayers S. (2013). Applying Leventhal's self-regulatory model to pregnancy: Evidence that pregnancy-related beliefs and emotional responses are associated with maternal health outcomes. Journal of Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1177/1359105313484781

Lee S, Ayers S, Holden D. (2013). A metasynthesis of risk perception in women with high risk pregnancies. Midwifery. Doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2013.04.010.

Parfitt Y, Pike A, Ayers S. (2013) The impact of parents' mental health on parent-baby interaction: a prospective study. Infant Behaviour and Development, 36(4), 599-608.

Sawyer A, Ayers S, Gyte G, Abbott J, Rabe H, Duley L. (2013) Measures of satisfaction with care during labour and birth: A systematic review. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 13:108. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-108.

Sawyer A, Rabe H, Abbott J, Gyte G, Duley L, & Ayers S. (2013) Parents' experiences and satisfaction with care during the birth of their very preterm baby: A qualitative study. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,120(5), 637-643.


Bhanbhro S, & Bryar R. (2012) The Experience of using Appreciative Inquiry in the Patient Pathways Project. AI Practitioner, 14(3), 61-63.

Harris R, & Ayers S. (2012). What makes labour and birth traumatic? A survey of intrapartum 'hotspots'. Psychology & Health, 27(10),1166-77.

Lee S, Ayers S, & Holden D. (2012). Risk perception in women with high-risk pregnancies: A systematic review. Health Risk and Society, 14(6), 511-531.

Newell SE, Harries P, & Ayers S. (2012) Boredom proneness in a psychiatric inpatient population. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 58(5), 488-495.

Parfitt Y, & Ayers S. (2012) Postnatal mental health and parenting: The importance of parental anger. Infant Mental Health Journal, 33(4), 400-410.

Sawyer A, Ayers S, Bradley R, Young D, & Smith H. (2012) Psychosocial predictors of posttraumatic growth after childbirth: A prospective study. Psychology and Health, 27(3), 362-377.


Ayers S, Muller I, Mahoney L, & Seddon P. (2011) Understanding needle-related distress in children with cystic fibrosis. British Journal of Health Psychology, 16(2), 329-343.

Cartwright K, Mahoney L, Ayers S, & Rabe H. (2011) Parents' perceptions of their infants' participation in randomized controlled trials. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 40(5), 555-565.

Copland C, Joekes K & Ayers S. (2011). Anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in cardiac patients. British Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 15-19.

Ford E, & Ayers S. (2011) Support during birth interacts with trauma history and birth intervention to predict postnatal post-traumatic stress symptoms. Psychology & Health, 26, 1553-1570.

Meades R, & Ayers S. (2011) Anxiety measures validated in perinatal populations: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 133(1-2), 1-15.

Meades R, Pond C, Ayers S, & Warren F. (2011) Postnatal debriefing: Have we thrown the baby out with the bathwater? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49, 367-372.

Moore D, & Ayers S. (2011) A review of postnatal mental health websites: help for healthcare professionals and patients. Archives of Women's Mental Health, 14(6), 443-452.

Sawyer A, Ayers S, Sidibeh S, Nyan O, Smith HE, & Dale J. (2011) Women's experience of pregnancy and birth in The Gambia: A qualitative study. British Journal of Health Psychology, 16(3), 528-541.


Ayers S, Joekes K, & Copland C. (2010) Recognising anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in cardiac patients. British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, 5(3), 118-122.

Ford E, Ayers S, & Bradley R. (2010) Exploration of a cognitive model to predict post-traumatic stress symptoms following childbirth. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 353-359.

Mahoney L, Ayers S, & Seddon P. (2010) The association between parent's and healthcare professional's behaviour and children's coping and distress during venepuncture. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 35(9), 985-995.

Rowan C, Bick D, & McCourt C. (2010) Provision of perinatal mental health services in two English Strategic Health Authorities: views and perspectives of the multi-professional team. Evidence-Based Midwifery. 8(3), 98-106.

Sawyer A, Ayers S, & Field AP. (2010) Posttraumatic growth and adjustment among individuals with cancer and HIV/AIDS: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 436-447.

Sawyer A, Ayers S, & Smith H. (2010) Pre- and postnatal psychological wellbeing in Africa: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 123, 17-29.


Ayers S, & Ford E. (2009) Birth trauma: Widening our knowledge of postnatal mental health. European Health Psychologist, 11(2), 16-19.

Ayers S, Copland C, & Dunmore E. (2009) A preliminary study of negative appraisals and dysfunctional coping strategies associated with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms following myocardial infarction. British Journal of Health Psychology, 14(3), 459-471.

Ayers S, Harris R, Sawyer A, Parfitt Y, & Ford E. (2009) Posttraumatic stress disorder after childbirth: Analysis of symptom presentation and sampling. Journal of Affective Disorders, 119, 200-204.

Ford E,& Ayers S. (2009) Stressful events and support during birth: The effect on anxiety, mood, and perceived control. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23, 260-268.

Ford E, Ayers S, & Wright DB. (2009) Measurement of maternal perceptions of Support and Control in Birth (SCIB). Journal of Women's Health, 18(2), 245-252.

Parfitt Y, & Ayers S. (2009) The effect of postnatal symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression on the couple's relationship and parent-baby bond. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 27(2), 127-142.

Sawyer A, & Ayers S. (2009) Posttraumatic growth in women after childbirth. Psychology & Health, 24(4), 457-471.


Ayers S, Joseph S, McKenzie-McHarg K, Slade P, & Wijma K. (2008) Post-traumatic stress disorder following childbirth: Current issues and recommendations for research. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 29(4), 240-250.

Thakar R, Ayers S, Srivastava R, & Manyonda I. (2008) Removing the Cervix at Hysterectomy: An Unnecessary Intervention? Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 112(6), 1262-1269.