During Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, iHV is delighted to share new Good Practice Points providing up-to-date evidence and references for our members:

NEW: GPP – Working with birth trauma

The iHV partnered with Dr Kirstie McKenzie-McHarg (Consultant Clinical Psychologist, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust), Dr Camilla Rosan (Head of Early Years, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families) and Professor Susan Ayers (Professor of Maternal and Child Health, School of Sciences, City University of London) to produce this new GGP.

The majority of women in the UK have birth experiences which are not traumatic, but for those that do a percentage may go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Birth trauma and PTSD can leave parents distressed and struggling with their mental health, their relationship with each other and their relationship with their infant.

It is vital that health visitors and others working with families in the perinatal period understand the potential impact of birth trauma, how to recognise it and what to do.

Please note that GPPs are available to iHV members only.

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The iHV is a self-funding charity – we can only be successful in our mission to strengthen health visiting practice if the health visiting profession and its supporters join us on our journey. We rely on our membership to develop new resources for our members.

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The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) is delighted to announce the publication of new resources to help health visitors support families and children after traumatic events – such as car accidents, violence, illnesses and operations and also large-scale incidents such as those recently at Grenfell Tower and the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.  Developed together with the Mental Health Foundation, the new Good Practice Points provide evidence-based information for health visitors to help them to support families after a traumatic event, and the new Parent Tips provides information to parents to help them to support their children after such an event.


Traumatic events can be defined as direct or indirect experiences that put either a person or someone close to them at risk of serious harm or death. Examples of traumatic events are: road accidents; experiencing or witnessing violence; abuse; serious illnesses or invasive medical procedures; dog bites; human accidents such as fires. More rare traumatic events include: natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, serious floods or hurricanes; a terrorist attack; conditions of war.

Children will react in different ways to a traumatic event and how they react may also depend slightly on their age and where they are at in their development. However, whatever their age, they are likely to experience a range of changes in their thinking, emotions, behaviour and physical responses. For most children, these symptoms will go away on their own after a few weeks. However, for 10-30% of children who have experienced a traumatic event, they go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can have adverse long-term effects on child development and adjustment.


Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting, commented:

“With more than two thirds of children experiencing at least one traumatic event by the time they are 16 years old, we need to be able to provide good support to them and their families.  Through mandated contacts with families, health visitors build good trusted relationships with all families and are, therefore, well placed to provide guidance and support at these difficult times. We very much hope that this new guidance will help both families and health visitors manage these enormously challenging circumstances with more knowledge of what will help.”

Dr Camilla Rosan, who was the lead author on the resources, and Clinical Psychologist at the Mental Health Foundation said:

“Experiencing a frightening event can understandably really shake up a family and it can be hard to know what to do for the best. Many families find it particularly challenging to know how to support younger children and infants who might not be able to clearly let you know, or even be aware, how the traumatic event might have affected them. We hope that these materials will help reassure professionals and families that changes are completely normal and, for most children, will not continue beyond a few weeks. However, for those that do not get better on their own, it reaffirms the importance of seeking professional mental health support and accessing evidence-based treatments.”