Perinatal women are being urged to give their own mental health a check up with concerns ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions are adding to the challenges faced by new mothers.
Mitcham Private Hospital’s Perinatal Mental Health Unit has again recorded strong demand for its unique inpatient service, treating 85 women in the past financial year.
Nurse Unit Manager Libby Godden said the pandemic has added to the burden faced by many women.
“There’s no doubt parenting is challenging for everyone, but for some, the struggle of the parenting role and the demands that come with it are overwhelming. Add to that a lack of support from family and friends because of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it’s lockdowns or visitor restrictions, and we find many women are really struggling,” Libby said.
“Most of our ladies are actually very high-functioning. They’re over-achievers who’ve been very successful before baby but that’s been forgotten and they’re on a merry-go-round of just looking after baby,” Libby said.
Mitcham Private Hospital’s Perinatal Mental Health Unit is unique in Victoria. Its team of dedicated psychiatrists, psychologists, perinatal nurses and midwives help mums struggling with anxiety or depression during pregnancy or the first 12 months after birth.
The women and their babies stay in a private room with access to support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Group counselling programs run every day, covering topics such as anxiety and depression, mother and baby bonding, sleep and settling, routines and self care.
Melbourne woman Amy van Ree says the Perinatal Mental Health Unit saved her family after she hit her ‘rock bottom’ in September 2020 - when she phoned PANDA, begging for someone to take her six-week-old baby Zayden away.
“I just lost it, I had a complete breakdown and I wanted them to take him. I had awful mum guilt, I didn’t like myself, and I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Amy recalls.
“My husband Mark suggested I try the perinatal mental health unit and said if you don’t like it then come home. I was reluctant but I thought ok, I can do a few days… I ended up staying for three weeks and it was the best thing I ever did.”
Libby believes the pressure new mums place on themselves contributes to their lack of self-worth.
“There’s a lot of pride here, women see other new mums on social media who have it all together, or they think motherhood is supposed to look a certain way, but they just need to be comfortable with what works for them,” Libby said.
Perinatal mental health has become Amy’s new passion and she believes not enough mums are getting the help they need.
“Don’t just think that you are struggling, admit it. Don’t feel bad because you’re not weak for doing it and you’re definitely not alone. As soon as you step in those doors, the Mitcham team is there for you”.