AS ONE in 10 Australian women face pregnancy related depression, a new survey has found that only six per cent of women would seek professional help right away.
The Bupa Health Foundation Maternal Mental Health Survey found that even if women were experiencing significant emotional stress, they would wait nearly one month before seeking professional help.
Interestingly, more than half of the women surveyed believed that a mother's physical and nutritional health was more important than her emotional wellbeing.
The Bupa Health Foundation is partnering with influential health leaders to raise awareness of maternal mental health and urge women to seek support early.
At today's Bupa Health Foundation Maternal Mental Health Breakfast, Wendy Harmer welcomed a panel of experts including Professor Jeannette Milgrom and Professor Marie-Paule Austin who unveiled new research insights into pregnancy related depression.
Fellow panellist and public figure Jessica Rowe who revealed her battle with postnatal depression following the birth of her daughter in 2007 said:
"It breaks my heart that so many women feel reluctant to seek advice given pregnancy related depression is so common in our community. I know first-hand how overwhelming motherhood can be - it's so important for women to feel comfortable seeking treatment so they can get back to their normal routines and enjoy motherhood."
The survey also revealed that women who suspected that they had depression as a result of childbirth were twice as likely not to tell anyone about their sadness and emotional stress, indicating the stigma surrounding maternal mental health is still very apparent.
Bupa Health Foundation Steering Committee member, Dr Stan Goldstein, said while it was important to raise awareness and acceptance about the realities of maternal mental health, the key was turning that awareness into meaningful support.
"By addressing the significant barriers for new mothers and helping them to feel connected, happy and strong enough to provide a loving environment for their babies, we can help our youngest Australians get the best start in life," Goldstein said.
"It's concerning that there is still a stigma surrounding pregnancy related depression, especially when you consider that depression can lead to worse health outcomes for both mothers and children in the future.
"The Bupa Health Foundation is proud of its continued partnership with leading researchers in the area of maternal mental health. Together, we are developing new and innovative interventions and research collaborations to help support women and families."
The national survey also highlighted the value of professional support, with women suggesting they would most commonly seek support from a healthcare professional, over friends and family.
Professor Jeannette Milgrom, Founder of the Parent Infant Research Institute (PIRI) is pioneering new approaches to treat women with antenatal depression.
"Our current research on the psychological treatment of depression and anxiety during pregnancy is breaking international ground," Milgrom said.
"Results show that we can substantially reduce depressive and anxious symptoms during pregnancy using a brief eight-session cognitive behavioural therapy program. This not only helps women enjoy this important period of their life, but also provides the best environment for their baby's development."
Professor Marie-Paule Austin's work with St John of God Perinatal & Womens Mental Health Unit also measures how routine mental health assessments for pregnant and new mothers are accessed across the health system and the impact on referrals into support services. I
It's the first of its kind in Australia and uses the largest cohort of women.
"Assessments during, as well as after, pregnancy are critical to ensuring women are seeking necessary support early," Austin said.
"Our research shows that women who are offered an assessment are more likely to take up available services and support - an important conclusion for promoting assessment as an effective approach to early intervention."