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What is perinatal mental health? How to get help for you or your loved one.

21 August 2022

Mental health Perinatal mental health
The term perinatal refers to the combination of both the before birth (antenatal) and the after birth (postnatal) periods. It’s a challenging time where massive ongoing changes occur to women, partners and their new families in general.

Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and postpartum psychosis are all known risks associated with pregnancy and new parenthood, with new or expecting parents subject to recurrences of other mental illnesses such as bipolar, personality disorders and schizophrenia as well.

As many as one-in-five expecting or new mums, and one-in-10 expecting or new dads, experience perinatal anxiety or depression in the lead up to becoming a parent and/or during the first 12 months of their baby’s life. Couple that with the fact that 5,321 babies born in the City of Casey during 2018-2019 — and that’s a lot of new and expecting parents at risk of suffering from a variety of mental health conditions in this region.

Feeling a little emotional and anxious after the arrival of a new baby is normal but if a low mood and feelings of anxiety persist for more than a couple of weeks and are interfering with a parent’s ability to function or enjoy the things that would normally bring them joy, it is possible they are experiencing perinatal anxiety and/or depression and accessing clinical support may be beneficial, if not, necessary. 

There are a whole range of symptoms and they are often different for each person but generally speaking they can include: feeling sad and teary for no obvious reason; persistent feelings of worry or fear, often to do with the health and wellbeing of their baby; persistent feelings of panic; persistent irritability; trouble sleeping; mood swings; tiredness and lack of energy. 

Although these are the most common signs, there are others. So if you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression, the best thing to do is to make an appointment with your GP as soon as you can so they can connect you with the most appropriate supports and resources. 

For people in the Casey-Cardinia region, the opening of St John of God Langmore Centre means a broad range of mental health conditions, including perinatal mental health, can now adequately be addressed. 

“While pregnancy and new parenthood is an exciting time, it can also be challenging,” claims St John of God Langmore Centre Chief Executive Officer Linda Allen. “It’s important for expecting and new parents to know that perinatal mental illness is common, but also very treatable, particularly with the assistance of our expert clinicians.”

By adding a bed to patient rooms, the perinatal mental health unit can also accommodate partners (including same-sex couples) and babies up to 18 months old who are not yet walking for the duration of treatment. 

“These private, cosy and welcoming rooms allow our specialised mental health clinicians to assist with individual patient recovery while the family continues to learn how to live well together,” explains Linda.

In addition to inpatient care, Langmore Centre clients will have access to day programs, group therapy sessions, a neuro stimulation suite for ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) treatments, in-house dining facilitates and therapy rooms, including specialised art rooms, internal courtyards, an exercise studio, café and chapel.  

“Along with the peaceful and harmonious environment, our clinicians will be on hand to help new and expecting parents learn how to set realistic expectations and create achievable goals,” says Linda. 

The opening of the Langmore Centre means St John of God Health Care is now positioned to provide an extensive and cohesive approach to perinatal mental health with opportunities for St John of God Berwick Hospital and St John of God Langmore Centre to partner with St John of God Raphael Services on Fairholme Boulevard in Berwick. Raphael Services is a social outreach initiative which offers no out-of-pocket expenses and provides counselling, support and therapy for new families. Specialising in perinatal anxiety and depression, clients can access Raphael Services through a GP referral from conception up until the child’s fourth birthday. The service provides both individual and group therapy sessions, as well as telehealth options that are tailored to individual needs. Parents going through prenatal testing, and people who are experiencing pregnancy loss can also access this service.

These complementary  services will work toward establishing early intervention and screening tools to help recognise parents with mental health issues or those at risk of developing them through various stages of pregnancy and parenthood. Family members requiring inpatient care or outpatient appointments with a psychiatrist will then be referred to the Langmore Centre.

To find out more about the treatment options at St John of God Langmore Centre please call 03 9773 7000 or email: [email protected].
For information on Berwick’s Raphael Services contact 1800 292 292 to speak to one of our friendly caregivers.

Jennine Dodd - Copywriter
Jennine Dodd is a copywriter for St John of God Health Care's South East Melbourne hospitals. She has more than 20 years’ experience in interviewing, and writing/editing for magazines, company publications, social media and websites.