motherhood and mental health, mama disrupt

[Guest Editor] Arabella Gibson: Motherhood and mental health

In Features, Guest Editors, Mind Health, Motherhood, Stories by Nicole Fuge

Mental health is very much a part of motherhood [and fatherhood], with perinatal depression and anxiety affecting one-in-five new mothers and one-in-10 new fathers each year in Australia.

By Arabella Gibson, CEO of Gidget Foundation Australia

The burden of mental health issues is of major concern to parents. But less than half (49%) of mums and dads are having open conversations about how they are feeling.

Don’t suffer in silence. Open up. Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Or if you notice your partner is struggling, there is always help available. Just know that you are NOT alone.

Parenting is tough, and modern mums and dads are struggling more than ever. With the responsibilities of parenting impacting other aspects of their lives.

Our research shows that 25% of parents say they never have time to themselves, and 29% say parenting is their only priority.

For expectant and new parents, it is so important to remember that some anxiety and worries, as well as changes in sleep, eating and routine, are normal factors when adjusting to parenthood.

But it is also important to know the warning signs to look out for. To determine if someone may be experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety.


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Things to look out for

If a parent experiences several of the following symptoms over a two-week period and notices a significant impact on quality of daily life, they may be vulnerable to, or experiencing, a depressive or anxious episode or trauma-related condition:

– Reduced enjoyment in activities that previously brought enjoyment
– Memory, concentration, or decision-making difficulties
– Physical symptoms that were not previously present, such as heart palpitations, chest tightness, headaches, body tension, sweaty hands, tingling, shortness of breath, stomach aches
– Feeling numb, hopeless, or despairing about the future
– Feeling separate, remote, or withdrawn from loved ones
– Scary, unwanted, recurrent thoughts or images of something bad happening to themselves, their baby, or those around them
– Negative thoughts and feelings such as fear, anger, guilt, feeling flat or numb a lot of the time
– Frequent emotional breakdowns or crying

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Demand for services is increasing year-on-year

It is vital that expectant and new parents have access to early support for perinatal mental health issues.

And as a nation, we need to break down the stigma surrounding perinatal depression and anxiety to ensure all mothers, fathers and non-birthing partners are seeking the help they need.

In 2021, our clinicians delivered 127% more clinical treatment services than in 2020. Which was already up by 69% in 2019.

So with demand for perinatal mental health services continuing to surge year-on-year, the Australian Government is investing $26.2 million to open 12 new perinatal mental health centres for expectant and new parents over the next four years.

This is a big step in the right direction. In helping meet the urgent mental health needs of Australia’s newest and growing families.

The government investment includes $15.85 million of funding to GFA to support the establishment and operation of 12 new centres. This will expand on the existing 24 Gidget Houses currently operating across the country. Plus, there is over $10 million for Medicare and associated costs for the provision of free psychological support at the centres.

With this funding, we will be able to facilitate support for the growing number of those diagnosed through increased screening. And provide much-needed treatment and psychological support to Australian families, both in metro and regional areas.

If you need help, or want to know more about Gidget Foundation Australia, visit

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