Mental health pathways to help expectant mums and dads

GPs can now access best practice guidelines to help them deliver coordinated perinatal mental health support to mums and dads needing help.

The guidelines, developed through Brisbane North HealthPathways, include information for GPs that covers perinatal mental health support, advice, assessment and service referral information.

Significant needs around infant and perinatal mental health exist locally with up to one in five expecting or new mums— and as many as one in ten dads—affected by perinatal anxiety and/or depression.

Perinatal anxiety and depression can occur any time from conception through the first two years after birth. While most health professionals are aware of postnatal depression, some have less experience of depression during pregnancy or anxiety in the perinatal period.

The pathway was regionally tailored by a range of subject matter experts including Metro North Perinatal Mental Health Service and the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (a statewide centre hosted by Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service), with early input from Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness and White Cloud Foundation.

Alongside the perinatal pathway, a pathway for infant mental health has been developed to ensure referral pathways are also available for young children who need mental health support and their families.

Service Development Leader Andrea Baldwin from the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health worked closely with the PHN and Metro North Hospital and Health Service to advocate for the development of these pathways.

“There was a need to improve referral pathways and grow the continuum of care for expectant and new parents, infants and young children,” Dr Baldwin said.

“The new pathways provide GPs with clear step-by-step guidance for referring parents, infants and young children to specialised services they may need. This will greatly enhance quality of care.”

As well as providing mental health support and service information, the pathways help increase professional awareness of the Mental Health Care in the Perinatal Period Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines (2017).

The 2019 PANDA Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week takes place this month from 10-16 November. For more information and to download resources or a digital toolkit visit www.panda.org.au.

To access the infant and perinatal mental health pathways visit https://brisbanenorth.communityhealthpathways.org or phone 07 3630 7300 for login details.