Perinatal depression rising

New parents are at risk of slipping through the cracks despite routine perinatal wellbeing checks, according to new data from the Gidget Foundation Australia.

The group says almost one-third of expectant and new parents reported their emotional wellbeing was not screened during the perinatal phase. 

The latest national data shows most Australian mothers receive routine antenatal care during pregnancy, with three in five receiving this within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. 

However, one in five mothers and one in 10 fathers will still experience perinatal depression and anxiety, with 39% struggling to cope when their baby is upset or has unsettled sleep.  

Gidget Foundation’s clinical director, Ms Karen Edwards, said routine appointments with a midwife or doctor were aimed at assessing and improving the wellbeing of both mother and baby throughout pregnancy but was mainly focused on physical assessments such as blood tests and genetic screening. 

As such, the foundation has launched a campaign to show the importance of ensuring expectant and new parents receive emotional screening to safeguard their wellbeing as well as their newborn’s. 

The Emotional Wellbeing Screening Program allows specially trained midwives to professionally assess the emotional health of expectant mothers during an additional routine antenatal appointment. 

Ms Edwards noted that the early days of parenthood can be challenging, and while it was common to feel overwhelmed at times as a new parent, parents needed to know that if they were struggling, they could access timely support. 

“For first-time parents, adjusting to parenthood can take time. Both parents might feel overwhelmed by their new responsibilities, and the struggle to adapt to their changing schedules,” she said. 

“Those early months are incredibly precious, but if new parents are struggling to cope it can be challenging for them to know whether the way they are feeling is a normal part of parenting, or something that needs a little more attention.  

“This is why it’s incredibly important for expectant and new parents to know that they can speak up at any stage, if they feel that their emotional wellbeing needs additional support.” 

The campaign highlights the use of standard screening tools for perinatal mental wellbeing in Australia, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Antenatal Risk Questionnaire (ANRQ), which allow participants to self-report on measures developed to identify symptoms and risk factors for depression and anxiety in expectant and new parents. 

“Perinatal depression and anxiety affect 100,000 expectant and new parents in Australia each year, but parents can still feel a sense of guilt if their expectations of newborn bliss don’t match up with their lived experience,” Ms Edwards said. 

“Yet no two journeys are the same and the more awareness there is on how unique the parenting experience is, the easier it will be for parents to not hold themselves to unrealistic expectations. 

“With parents of newborns so immersed in looking after their new baby, they may not prioritise how they are coping or know how to ask for help when they are struggling, and we hope that by becoming more visible we’ll be able to reach more parents during the times they need us most.” 

For more information, including resources on adjusting to parenthood, head to