Mental health support for expectant and new parents

Gidget Foundation Australia CEO Arabella Gibson, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Wes Fang MLC, Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor, Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr, MPHN CEO Melissa Neal and Tresillian CEO Robert Mills.

Wagga’s new Gidget House was officially opened this week.

Designed to support expectant, new and recently bereaved parents living across the Murrumbidgee region, a total of $56,250 will provide up to 10 free counselling sessions for eligible parents.

Gidget Foundation Australia CEO Arabella Gibson said Covid-19 has been impacting on the mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents.

“We are so pleased to team up with MPHN to provide comprehensive psychological counselling for expectant and new parents in the region. These services will mean that many more mums and dads will have the support they need during this vulnerable and isolating time in their parenting journey,” Ms Gibson said.

The decision was made to go ahead with the launch of Gidget House in Wagga while Covid is continuing, since Ms Gibson said the foundation is aware that parents are experiencing heightened levels of stress at the moment. 

Tumut mother of three – soon to be four – Tania Wallace agrees. 

“I think any extra support during this special time is good for mum, bub and the whole family,” said Mrs Wallace, who is currently 21 weeks pregnant with an IVF pregnancy.

Tumut resident Tania Wallace said her pregnancy has been going smoothly, and felt the option to access free counselling support will be good for the whole family.

“I don’t feel like I’ve been impacted too greatly compared to other pregnancies but the uncertainty of future months does cause more mental pressure,” she said.

The Covid-related challenges for the Wallace family came even before Tania fell pregnant, as clinics across the country started cancelling non-essential procedures. She said she was fortunate to still be able to travel to Sydney, just before New South Wales started implementing some hard closures at medical facilities. 

“The very first one was the stress and uncertainty if the pregnancy would even be able to go ahead,” she said. “Thankfully the timing was just right and I was one of the last embryo transfers prior to lock down.”

Mrs Wallace said she’d be very interested in accessing free counselling sessions, both prenatal and postnatal.

“I think any extra support during this special time is good for mum, bub and the whole family,” she said. “It’s a special time during unpredictable times!”

Despite the extra rules around Covid-19, Mrs Wallace said she’s grateful her husband, Paul, has been able to attend her appointments with her, and she’s appreciated the extra social distancing and other preventative measures at those appointments, since there are more risks for pregnant women contacting Covid.

NSW Health is advising pregnant women to take precautions during Covid-19 and talk to their maternity care providers if they have any concerns or symptoms related to the virus. 

“There is a lot more we need to understand about Covid-19, but to date it seems there is no evidence of harm to babies of women who have a suspected or confirmed Covid in pregnancy,” said a department statement.

Despite limited evidence to date that Covid-19 will negatively impact unborn babies, Ms Gibson said the Gidget Foundation is aware this is a stressful time for mums- and dads-to-be. 

“In a survey that we conducted recently, 81% of expectant and new parents admitted to being more anxious since the start of Covid-19,” said Ms Gibson. “We want expectant and new parents in the Murrumbidgee Region to know that we are here for them, and that we will do whatever we can to support them.”

MPHN CEO Melissa Neal said families are encouraged to reach out for support, regardless of where they live in the Murrumbidgee region.

“Supporting maternal mental health was one of nine priorities identified in the Murrumbidgee Maternal and Child Health Strategy launched late last year and I’m pleased we are able to provide this funding to the Gidget Foundation of Australia for these counselling sessions,” Ms Neal said.

“Parents from across the Murrumbidgee Mental health support for pregnant women region are able to access these services, whether that be in person or over the telephone.

“We know the sooner parents who might be struggling reach out for support, the quicker they can recover.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, said he was pleased to be part of a Government which supported important health initiatives and services through its Primary Health Network (PHN) program.

“Parenthood can be a challenge for all parents whether you’re experiencing parenthood for the first time, or already have children. It’s okay to seek support and I congratulate MPHN and the Gidget Foundation for bringing these services to parents in the Murrumbidgee.”

Gidget House Wagga Wagga is located with Tresillian Family Care Centre at 54 Yentoo Drive, Glenfield Park.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, call the Mental Health Line 1800 011 511, Lifeline 13 11 14 or call 000. Or to access the Head to Health website visit www.headtohealth.org.au.