Perinatal mental health research

The perinatal period spans pregnancy and the first one to two years after birth - a time where women and their partners are rapidly adjusting to their new role as parents and are at increased risk for mental health conditions.  

We are committed to advancing research in perinatal mental health and improving mental health outcomes for women and their families. Our research includes anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other emotional health issues experienced during pregnancy and following birth.
The majority of our research is undertaken at the Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health Unit, which adjoins the Mother-Baby Unit at St John of God Burwood Hospital in Sydney. Perinatal mental health expert Professor Marie-Paule Austin leads this research unit, which is a partnership between St John of God Health Care and the University of New South Wales.

Research by St John of God Raphael Services further supplements our work in perinatal mental health research.
  • 10 per cent to 16 per cent of women are affected by depression and anxiety disorder in pregnancy and the first two to three years after birth, impacting about 30,000 Australian families every year. 
  • Left undetected/untreated, depression and anxiety disorders may affect pregnancy and birth outcomes; the mother’s ability to function as a parent; and the quality of mother and infant attachment. 
  • Secure mother and infant attachment - which develops in the early years – is associated with more optimal emotional health outcomes in children. 
  • We develop and assess depression screening programs undertaken by midwives and community nurses, with a view to improving early detection and treatment of perinatal depression and anxiety for women in Australia.
  • For women who don’t have access to hospital or clinic based perinatal depression screening programs, we are developing self-screening phone/internet applications.
  • We develop perinatal mental health policy at a national level - aiming to improve outcomes for Australian families. 
  • We evaluate the effect perinatal mental health policy in Australia is having on the uptake of mental health services by perinatal women.
  • We examine the types of patients, treatments, and clinical progress of mothers and infants during their admission to the Mother-Baby Unit at St John of God Burwood Hospital.
  • We research the impact that severe maternal stress in pregnancy may have on infant cognitive and behavioural outcomes, and how this can be buffered by sensitive maternal care. 
St John of God Chair and Director of Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health 
Professor Marie-Paule Austin

Senior Research Associate, Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health Unit
Dr Nicole Reilly

Research Officers
Emma Black, Elloise Brake

This is a select list of publications authored by Professor Marie-Paule Austin and Dr Nicole Reilly over the last five years.

Chambers, G. M., Randall. S., Hoang, V. P., Sullivan, E. A., Highet, N., Croft, M., Mihalopoulos, C., Morgan, V., Reilly, N., Austin, M. P. (2016).The national perinatal depression initiative (NPDI): An evaluation of access to GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists through the Medicare Benefits Schedule. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (ANZJP). Vol.50(3), pp.264-74


Kingston, D., Austin, MP., McDonald, S. W., Vermeyden, L., Heaman, M., Hegadoren, K., Lasiuk, G., Kingston, J., Sword, W., Jarema, K., Veldhuyzen van Zanten, S., McDonald, S. D., & Biringer, A. (2015). Pregnant Women’s Perceptions of Harms and Benefits of Mental Health Screening. PloS One 10(12) e0145189


Kingston, D., Austin, M-P., Heaman, M., McDonald, S., Lasiuk, G., Sword, W., Giallo, R., Hegadoren, K., Vermeyden, L., vanZanten Veldhuyzen, S., Kingston, J., Jarema, K., & Biringer, A. (2015). Barriers and facilitators of mental health screening in pregnancy. Journal of Affective Disorders, 186, 350-357.


King, S., Kildea, S., Austin, M-P., Brunet, A., Cobham, V. E., Dawson, P. A., . . . Yong Ping, E. (2015). QF2011: a protocol to study the effects of the Queensland flood on pregnant women, their pregnancies, and their children's early development. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s12884-015-0539-7


Reilly, N., Yin, C., Monterosso, L., Bradshaw, S., Neale, K., Harrison, B., & Austin, M. P. (2015). Identifying psychosocial risk of mothers in an Australian private maternity setting: a pilot study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2015, Vol.55(5), pp.453-458 . doi:10.1111/ajo.12370


Christl, B., Reilly, N., Yin, C., & Austin, M.-P. (2015). Clinical profile and outcomes of women admitted to a psychiatric mother-baby unit. Archives of Women's Mental Health, 18(6), 805-816. doi:10.1007/s00737-014-0492-x


Kingston, D., Janes-Kelley, S., Tyrrell, J., Clark, ., Hamza, D., Holmes, P., Parkes, C., Moyo, N., McDonald, S., Austin, M-P. (2015). An integrated web-based mental health intervention of Assessment-Referral-Care to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in hospitalized pregnant women with medically high-risk pregnancies: a feasibility study protocol of hospital-based implementation. JMIR Research Protocols, 4, e9.

Reilly, N., Harris, S., Loxton, D., Chojenta, C., Forder, P., Milgrom, J., and Austin, M. P. (2013). "Referral for management of emotional health issues during the perinatal period: does mental health assessment make a difference?" Birth no. 40 (4):297-306.

Austin, M. P., Colton, J., Priest, S., Reilly, N., & Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2013) The Antenatal Risk Questionnaire (ANRQ): Acceptability and use for psychosocial risk assessment in the maternity setting. Women & Birth, 26, 17-25.

Austin, M. P., Middleton, P., & Highet, N. (2011). Australian Mental Health reform in the perinatal period: improving health outcomes for mothers, infants and families [Editorial]. Medical Journal of Australia, 195 (3), 112-113.