Perinatal mental health

Lead: Dr Nicole Reilly

In Australia, local, state and national initiatives for maternal mental health have focused on prevention and early intervention for over 15 years. Yet the impact of these preventive programs on health service use and mental health outcomes for pregnant women and new mothers remains largely unknown in this country.

In response, a core component of the current research program is evaluation of the impact of key national policy initiatives for maternal mental health. This work utilises twenty years of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study for Women’s Health (ALSWH) – Australia’s largest longitudinal survey of women – and the existing structures for linkage of this rich survey data to state and national administrative datasets, including Medicare. Its unique inclusion of mental health outcome data will fill a significant – and much criticised – gap in the evidence base. In collaboration with RCGHA and Professor Marie-Paule Austin, an internationally recognised expert in the field of perinatal mental health, It will also validate a revised version of the Antenatal Risk Questionnaire – a clinical tool to support the early identification of psychosocial risk during pregnancy and which meets the parallel criteria of updated clinical best practice recommendations (2017) and new MBS items for obstetric services (2018).

This body of work is underpinned by clear pathways for knowledge exchange and research translation.