40% of new mothers feel overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious while trying to settle into life with a young baby. Sadly, poor mental health means suicide has become one of the main causes of death among new Australian mothers, according to The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). These deaths are avoidable and more can be done to save these women. So, just where are things going wrong and what needs changing?
Everyone knows that babies don’t sleep well, especially in the first few months of their lives. 43% of mums with babies up to six months of age say they get just one to three hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. This is a concern as research has found that new mums who have poor quality sleep are more than three times at risk of developing depression. This can create a vicious circle as depression also causes insomnia. The pressure to make their baby sleep through the night is an added source of stress for mothers too. There is evidence that new mums need support in dealing with this issue. One Adelaide based study found that infant sleep intervention reduced baby wake times and maternal stress, anxiety, and depression. This shows a need for sleep consultation programs to become standard when providing postnatal care.
Birth is a worrying experience for all women, but too many Australian mothers are significantly harmed during the process. ABC News reports that one in three women go through a birth trauma and one in 10 develop PTSD after giving birth. Women report being held down against their will, being cut open, and being told they’ll die by Australian-based medics. Not only does this cause injury to the mother, but their baby is at risk too. Birth injuries range from minor to life-long. Common birth injury types include brain injuries, spinal cord damage, bone injuries, and soft tissue damage. These are often caused by medics not responding to issues quickly enough. It is possible to claim compensation for these injuries. But this doesn’t stop new moms from feeling guilty, upset, and depressed. As such, counselling and birth trauma support groups need to be readily available to all women affected by these issues.
Extend postnatal care
The fourth trimester of pregnancy is considered to be the first 12 weeks after the baby’s birth. Generally, postnatal care starts to tail off from this point and certainly from the six month mark. However, research has found that new mothers feel the most amount of stress between nine and 12 months postpartum. Another risk factor is that women who receive private healthcare during their pregnancy and beyond aren’t necessarily assessed for psychosocial issues like they are by public healthcare providers. This demonstrates that solid and extended support is needed for all mothers, regardless of their mental health background, their choice of healthcare provider, and the age of their baby.
Too many new mums in Australia are taking their own lives and this is having devastating consequences on their family and their newborn babies. It’s clear to see that several different interventions can be put into place to support and protect these women and this should be done fast.