Ms Sarah Young1, Professor Steven Campbell1, Dr Mai Frandsen1, Dr Carey Mather1
1University Of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia
Women’s needs after childbirth are varied and numerous, and the weeks and months following birth are crucial for both mother and baby. Research has shown that many women experience emotional issues after childbirth, and some of these complications may persist for a prolonged time period. The trickle-down effects of mothers who do not feel mentally well are significant, as reduced mental wellbeing is associated with poor health outcomes for their babies and families. Despite these ramifications, the postnatal period is often ‘eclipsed’ by the attention paid to the antenatal and intrapartum periods, and the health needs of postnatal women are often not addressed in practice or research. While a considerable volume of work has focused on postnatal depression, only 12-13% of women fall into this diagnostic category, and there is a lack of research examining the postnatal mental wellbeing of the remaining majority. To gain a better understanding of what influences new mothers’ ability to cope, a longitudinal, phenomenologically-informed study was conducted in northern Tasmania. A series of four in-depth interviews with 13 first-time mothers were undertaken over the course of their childbearing year to improve understanding of mental wellbeing during this important time. Tasmania is lacking a comprehensive program of care for women in the postnatal period. This research will contribute to the development of innovative, informed policies to provide improved emotional support to future first time mothers.
Sarah Young is a PhD candidate in the School of Nursing at the University of Tasmania. Her areas of interest include women’s health in general, and in particular, the mental wellbeing of new mothers.