Mental Health Assessments Available to Pregnant Women

The Federal Government have announced that pregnant women will have access to mental health assessments during pregnancy and after giving birth funded by Medicare.

The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Michael Gannon said that a key to managing postnatal depression was early intervention. With a focus on the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life, Gannon said “healthy mothers who are functioning well are more likely to take good care of their babies”. The first 1000 days are seen as critical for the trajectory of good health for the rest of a person’s life.

Pregnant women will receive a mental health assessment, fully covered by Medicare, from November. This will be followed by a subsequent assessment within eight weeks of giving birth. The investment would ensure that obstetricians and health professionals would perform the screening tests within the prenatal period. Thus helping to identify women who may already be depressed or women who are at an increased risk for postnatal depression. It is an opportunity to provide early intervention in the hope of preventing depression from taking hold.

The focus for prenatal and postnatal care has always been on the physical aspects of pregnancy, according to Dr Vijay Roach, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and founder of the Gidget Foundation. The Gidget Foundation is a not for profit organisation aiming to raise awareness and provide support to women who suffer with pre or postnatal depression or anxiety. Dr Roach says that women’s mental health is an essential part of pre and postnatal care and this funding acknowledges the importance of that aspect of care.

Dr Roach said that prenatal anxiety and depression often went undiagnosed, but it was known that at least 20 percent of women are affected by it either in pregnancy or after birth. Research has shown that early intervention makes a difference in managing depression and anxiety. Interventions such as referring the patient to a GP or psychiatrist, cognitive behaviour therapy and medications all contribute to treatment plans.

This initiative will ensure that emotional wellbeing is looked after so women can focus on getting better.

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