Shining a light on mums' emotional wellbeing

World Maternal Mental Health Day offers a chance to highlight the importance of good emotional wellbeing for mums to provide better outcomes for children, says St John of God Health Care’s perinatal mental health expert Professor Marie-Paule Austin.

St John of God Health Care maternal mental health day 

2 May 2018

Last year, the mental health screening tool, known as the Antenatal Risk Questionnaire (ANRQ) developed by Professor Austin and her team, was added to new national guidelines meaning more pregnant women than ever before will have their emotional wellbeing checked.

“Screening the emotional wellbeing of pregnant women is really important because about 10 per cent will develop a depressive or anxiety disorder in pregnancy and the first year after birth, which can affect their ability to bond with their baby,” Professor Austin said.

“World Maternal Mental Health Day provides a great opportunity to highlight this issue again and show the progress we are making in this field.”

Professor Austin said assessing a woman’s emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and in the first year after birth ensured that those who need care get the intervention and access to the support they need.

“This is really important as good emotional wellbeing can led to better pregnancy outcomes, better adjustment to the responsibilities of parenting and better development of bonding with their baby,” she said.

“All of this is shown to have flow on effects to improved outcomes for their baby in terms of emotional, behavioural and cognitive measures.”

St John of God Health Care is a leading provider of perinatal and infant mental health providing acute care through the Mother and Baby Unit at St John of God Burwood Hospital, led by Professor Austin, and community based care through St John of God Raphael Services in NSW, VIC and WA.

“The most important message that mums need to know, whether they are pregnant or after their have given birth, is that help is available,” St John of God Raphael Services National Director Helen McAllister said.

“The best first step is to talk to your GP or access online help through websites such as Mummatters which allows you to take the ANRQ online or call a helpline.

“Your GP can direct you to the best place for help whether that is in hospital, community-based care such as Raphael Services or a support group.”