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Mental health in pregnancy: the sleeping giant


  • Anne Buist

  • This paper has been adapted from a presentation given in Melbourne on 21 April 2002 for Ausmed to midwives: Midwifery & Mental Health and Mental Illness.

A/Prof Anne Buist, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Locked Bag 1, West Heidelberg, VIC 3081, Australia.


Objectives: This paper examines the difficulties of identifying depression in the perinatal period and proposes a way forward through a ‘beyondblue’ funded program, the National Postnatal Depression Program.

Conclusions: The perinatal period offers an excellent opportunity to identify mental illness and to intervene early to prevent transgenerational problems, particularly given increased links between mental health services, general practitioners and obstetric services. Barriers to doing so include attitudes, anxiety and – most importantly – resource implications, but it is argued that without attempting to address this, identify and remedy the deficiencies, change will not occur. General pactitioners have a crucial role, as do psychiatrists, in supporting them.