Tweddle World Mental Health Day

Long Waiting Lists highlighted in Perinatal Services Inquiry

Long Waiting Lists highlighted in Perinatal Services Inquiry

By Kerrie Gottliebsen

Tweddle Child & Family Health Service Board Chair, Dr Nicole Milburn (Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Consultant) welcomed the final report into the Inquiry into Perinatal Services undertaken by the Family and Community Development Committee of the Parliament of Victoria, tabled in Parliament on 20 June 2018.

“I’m pleased to see the final report and the 86 recommendations, especially as they are directly aimed at improving services to families in the very formative years, from the antenatal period to one year of age. Babies and Toddlers, develop optimally in families where there is consistent, reliable and safe care” she said. “Importantly we a need service system that can help families thrive right from the very beginning. I look forward to the Government’s response to this report”

The report followed extensive submissions and meetings where, the voices of families, nurses, midwives, support groups and health professionals identified improvements that could be made to Victoria’s perinatal services sector.

The Inquiry received over 100 written submissions and 90 appearances in person at public hearings, including the babies and toddlers who accompanied witnesses. Tweddle Child & Family Health Services (Tweddle) lodged a written submission and also appeared before the committee.

The Committee heard that the impact of maternal mental illness during the perinatal period can be far reaching, not only for the mother, but also the child. Studies have shown that increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels can have significant and long lasting impact on the developing brain of the baby.

Tweddle’s report submission cited several studies illustrating how exposure of maternal depression and ‘toxic stress’ impact the developing brain of babies and toddlers. Depression can compromise the mother/infant relationship and induce biological changes, which may increase the risk that the child will be hypersensitive to stress and may develop mental health problems later in life.

The Jean Hailes Research Unit submission stated that Early Parenting Centres were associated with sustained improvements in maternal mood and infant manageability, yet long waiting lists and high occupancy rates ‘suggest an unmet need for these services’.

The submission noted that around six per cent of women in Victoria who have recently given birth are admitted to early parenting centres annually.

The Committee heard about the value of Early Parenting Centres, but that consumers faced long waiting lists for admission to an Early Parenting Centre.

On this issue, the Committee recommended that The Victorian Government evaluate the demand for Early Parenting Centres across the state with a view to expanding this service to provide effective coverage for mothers, babies and families.

The final report can be found here or at the www.parliament.vic.gov.au website under the 58th Perinatal Inquiry into Perinatal Services.


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