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ESMI: Effectiveness of Services for Mothers with Mental Illness


Effectiveness of Services for Mothers with Mental Illness (ESMI) is a programme of research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to examine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of perinatal psychiatry services.  The programme consists of several linked studies which will allow us to make recommendations to policy makers, NHS commissioners and providers about the type of perinatal mental health services that are most helpful.

There is growing evidence that many women experience mental health problems during pregnancy and following childbirth. Difficulties that result include prematurity and low birth weight infants, disruption of the bond between mothers and children, later psychological problems in children, and difficulty in maintaining family relationships. Evidence about how NHS services can best prevent or reduce these problems is limited.

Studies within the programme

WendyWENDY: Well-being in pregnancy in an inner city maternity service. 

WENDY investigates the best ways of identifying disorders and treating depression in pregnant women seeing midwives. Find out more about the WENDY project.



DawnDAWN: Depression: an exploratory parallel-group randomised controlled trial of Antenatal guided self-help for WomeN

DAWN is a randomised controlled trial in which there is a 50:50 chance of women that are recruited to the trial of receiving Guided Self Help rather than care as usual. Find out more about the DAWN project.


StaceySTACEY: Stakeholders' views and experiences of perinatal mental health care: a qualitative study 

The study aims to help improve services for mothers who experience a mental health difficulty while pregnant or soon after the birth of their baby. Find out more about the STACEY project at UCL's website.


ESMI-MSBUESMI MBU: The Effectiveness and cost-effectivenesS of Mother and Baby Units versus general psychiatric Inpatient wards and Crisis Resolution Team services (ESMI)

ESMI MBU investigates the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of psychiatric Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) compared with general psychiatric wards or care from intensive Crisis Resolution Teams (CRTs) for acute severe postnatal disorders for women in the year post birth. Find out more about the ESMI MBU project.

Who is involved?

Our team comprises leading experts in perinatal mental health, health economics, statistics, midwifery, social sciences, service user and health services research. HSPR members include:  Professor Louise M. Howard (Chief Investigator), Professor in Women’s Mental Health, KCL and Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust; Professor Sarah Byford and Dr Diana Rose.

Other investigators include: Professor Sonia Johnson, UCL; Professor Debra Bick, KCL; Professor Kathryn Abel, University of Manchester; Professor Myra Hunter, IOPPN; Professor Jeannette Milgrom, University of Melbourne; Professor Ian Jones, Cardiff University; Professor Carmine Pariante, IOPPN; Professor Nicky Stanley, University of Central Lancashire; Dr Angelika Wieck, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust; Dr Nicola Morant, University of Cambridge; Dr Susan Pawlby, IOPPN. For more information contact


The ESMI programme is funded by the National Institute for Health Research's Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) Programme.




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