Australian mental health reform for perinatal care

Marie-Paule V Austin, Philippa F Middleton and Nicole J Highet
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2011.tb03236.x
Published online: 1 August 2011

Improving health outcomes for mothers, children and families

Mental health morbidity associated with the perinatal period — from conception to the end of the first postnatal year — is now recognised as a major public health issue, with depression affecting up to 15% of women during this period.1 It has been reported that 45% of postnatal depression begins in pregnancy,2 and about 38% of women with postnatal depression have a comorbid anxiety disorder.3 About 3% of women experience moderate to severe depression during the perinatal period and 0.2% experience a puerperal psychosis,4 and maternal suicide continues to be identified as one of the leading causes of indirect maternal mortality.5 There is growing evidence of the negative impact of poor mental health outcomes not only for the mother, but also for her child and family.6

  • Marie-Paule V Austin1,2,3
  • Philippa F Middleton4
  • Nicole J Highet3

  • 1 St John of God Health Care, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 beyondblue: the national depression initiative, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 4 Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.



We acknowledge beyondblue: the national depression initiative for funding and supporting the National Postnatal Depression Research Program, the National Action Plan for Perinatal Mental Health, and the clinical practice guidelines for depression and related disorders in the perinatal period.9


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