BMC women’s health 2016 Oct 2516(1) 69
Poor mental health in the perinatal period can impact negatively on women, their infants and families. Australian State and Territory governments are investing in routine psychosocial assessment and depression screening with referral to services and support, however, little is known about how well these services are used. The aim of this paper is to report on the health services used by women for their physical and mental health needs from pregnancy to 12 months after birth and to compare service use for women who have been identified in pregnancy as having moderate-high psychosocial risk with those with low psychosocial risk.
One hundred and six women were recruited to a prospective longitudinal study with five points of data collection (2-4 weeks after prenatal booking, 36 weeks gestation, 6 weeks postpartum, 6 months postpartum and 12 months postpartum) was undertaken. Data were collected via face-to-face and telephone interviews, relating to psychosocial risk factors, mental health and service use. The prenatal psychosocial risk status of women (data available for 83 of 106 women) was determined using the Antenatal Risk Questionnaire (ANRQ) and was used to compare socio-demographic characteristics and service use of women with ‘low’ and ‘moderate to high’ risk of perinatal mental health problems.
The findings indicate high use of postnatal universal health services (child and family health nurses, general practitioners) by both groups of women, with limited use of specialist mental health services by women identified with moderate to high risk of mental health problems. While almost all respondents indicated that they would seek help for mental health concerns most had a preference to seek help from partners and family before accessing health professionals.
These preliminary data support local and international studies that highlight the poor uptake of specialist services for mental health problems in postnatal women, where this may be required. Further research comparing larger samples of women (with low and psychosocial high risk) are needed to explore the extent of any differences and the reasons why women do not access these specialist services.