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Help is available if you are struggling with your emotional wellbeing as a mum

29 July 2021

Mental health Perinatal mental health
Clinical Nurse Consultant Carmen Xidis explains how the intensive St John of God Burwood Hospital inpatient program can help mums struggling with their emotional wellbeing.

What is perinatal mental health?

Perinatal and infant mental health is the term we use to describe a mother’s psychological wellbeing and that impact on their quality of bonding with their baby. 

Becoming a mother, whether for the first time or not, is period of great change not only to your physical wellbeing but also your lifestyle and relationships. There is a big change on your emotional wellbeing bringing about a range of challenges that are often not voiced or shared with anyone.

Women are more likely to experience mental health issues including, anxiety and depression during the perinatal period (pregnancy through to when the child is one year old) than any other time in their lives. 

It is more common than what you may think with;

  • Up to one in ten women experiencing depression during pregnancy and one in seven women in the year following birth.
  • One in five women will experience anxiety in both during pregnancy and in the ear following birth.  For some women, they may experience depression together with anxiety.

There are other mental health issues as well as social circumstances which may have a major impact on both you and your relationship with your baby and family.  

Why get help? Aren’t all mothers finding it tough?

Intervention during pregnancy and in the first year after your baby is born is essential to improve your health as a mother and your ability to nurture and connect with your baby. This is important as it helps infants develop a secure attachment with their mother.

If you are experiencing or are not sure whether what you are feeling is a mental health issue, it is important you discuss this with your doctor.  Both your physical and mental health should be central in the care you receive during pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.  

What is the Mother and Baby Unit?

The Mother and Baby Unit at St John of God Burwood Hospital is the only specialist inpatient program in the state for mothers and babies up to 12 months of age.

The 12-bed secure unit, which is located as a free-standing building within the hospital grounds, features:

  • 12 generous sized single rooms with ensuites and separate safe-sleep space for your baby
  • Double sized beds
  • Facilities for your partner to stay
  • A playroom with facilities to record mother and baby interactions
  • A nursery for babies being cared for by staff
  • A full kitchen, living and dining room
  • An outdoor deck and garden space for the exclusive use of other mothers in the Mother and Baby Unit.

The treatment program

Your treatment program is multifaceted and provides a holistic individualised approach to improving your wellness and function. We aim to give you the confidence to care for your baby.

The program draws on a range of mental health principles and skills including:

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Circle of security
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy

Other therapy offered includes group-based exercise sessions such as mums and bubs yoga, gym sessions, parent craft groups, couple groups, partner’s group and group walks.

Most of our psychological therapy is offered in a group environment with other moths who are admitted to the unit. This approach has been proven to be therapeutic and effective, while also allowing you to connect with others in similar situations and normalise your experience.

Who cares for me during my stay?

Our multidisciplinary team look after not only your emotional wellbeing but your physical health too, to give you the best chance of reaching your recovery goals. We also support you in the care of your baby as well as provide you with guidance and education to increase your confidence for when you go home. 

Your care team during your stay with us include:

  • Consultant Psychiatrist
  • Medical Registrar
  • Clinical Nurse Consultant
  • Nurses – both for mental health and mother craft
  • Psychologist
  • Diversional Therapist
  • Pharmacist
  • Social Worker

Partners need care as well

Adjusting to parenthood can be challenging, especially for first time fathers.  There are numerous demands placed on you including balancing work commitments, supporting your partner, and the practical requirements of being a parent, all with reduced sleep and the pressure of being the sole breadwinner in many instances.

This can sometimes make you feel unsure of yourself as a parent and you may be experiencing some of the same effects.  About 10 per cent of fathers experience mental health issues in the first year following the birth of their baby.

Did you know:

  • 57 per cent of first time fathers admit to significantly increased stress levels
  • The causes of mental health issues in mothers are just as relevant to partners
  • 56 per cent of fathers do not seek support for themselves

Read some of our blogs about emotional wellbeing as a dad:

Is there an outpatient program?

On top of our inpatient program, we also offer treatment in our Counselling and Therapy Centre for mums living in the community.

We offer two outpatient groups specifically for mothers:

  • Postnatal Depression group
  • Circle of Security group

These groups help you develop the mental health strength and skills you need to manage your role as a mother, while continuing to care for your child at home.

You can also take part in these groups after you have been discharged from the inpatient program.

Carmen Xidis - Clinical Nurse Consultant at St John of God Burwood Hospital
Carmen Xidis - Clinical Nurse Consultant

Carmen has worked with St John of God Health Care for the better part of 25 years in various roles. Carmen completed a Graduate Diploma in Perinatal Infant Mental Health in 2018. Her current position is Clinical Nurse Consultant of the Mother Baby Unit. 

This position involves working closely with our Perinatal Research team on new and exciting projects in the field, including developing and establishing a clinical support network for integrated psycho-social assessment and development of referral and care pathways working collaboratively with maternity services.