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Raising the profile of Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Week

Dr Paul Daborn with perinatal mental health charge nurse manager Jacqui Coates-Harris.

Waikato District Health Board’s perinatal mental health team held a public symposium to raise awareness about the specific needs of women who experience mental illness related to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.

Waikato DHB perinatal psychiatrist Dr Paul Daborn said it’s very important to provide support to these women at this time of their life.

“Up to 85 per cent of new mums will experience baby blues which will last up to a few days. Few of these progress to more serious mental illness, but overall 13 to 15 per cent of women will develop postnatal depression,” he said.

“With support women with postnatal depression usually recover within a year however, some take longer and they have a high risk of reoccurrence of  mental illness during their next pregnancy.”

Dr Daborn said it’s vital to identify and support women with specific pre-occurring mental health challenges, such as bipolar affective disorder, which can have serious consequences if unsupported during pregnancy and after delivery.

“Women are 20 times more likely to develop a psychotic illness during the immediate postnatal period than any other time in their life.”

The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review (PMMR), June 2015 states that the highest risk of death for women during pregnancy and the postpartum period is from suicide.

Twenty-one deaths were reported as suicide to the PMMRC in 2006–2013, over half of these deaths were antenatal (11 were deaths of women at less than 20 weeks gestation, five prior to birth and six after miscarriage or termination of pregnancy).

“This is why it is important to consider women’s mental health across the perinatal continuum and not just postnatally,” said Waikato DHB perinatal mental health charge nurse manager Jacqui Coates-Harris.

“Establishing closer links with primary care, maternity services and perinatal mental health services is the key to early identification and prevention of these disorders and thus decreasing the impact of these disorders on women/mothers and their families/whanau.”

Other speakers included counsellor Jo Wall spoke on mindfulness, Carla Sargent, co-founder of Voice for Parents talked about the effects of birth trauma and Simone Molenaar shared her family’s experience with perinatal mental health and the importance of combining health services with the support of family and friends.

If you or a family member/friend think you are experiencing mental health difficulties contact your local GP surgery, midwife, Plunket/Tamaki Ora nurse or public nurses who can discuss these difficulties with you and if appropriate refer onto to our perinatal mental health service.

If you are concerned about a loved one or need to speak with someone there are many people to talk to:

Waikato DHB Triage Service: 0800 50 50 50 any time

Lifeline – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (8 am to 12 midnight) – 0800 111 757

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)

Suicide Crisis Helpline (aimed at those in distress, or those who are concerned about the wellbeing of someone else) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

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