Peer support to help new mums’ mental health during COVID-19

Royal Women's Hospital

The Royal Women’s Hospital has commenced a study pairing new mums with a trained volunteer who has recovered from postnatal depression or anxiety for telephone-based peer support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study, which is an offshoot of the Depression and Anxiety Peer Support study (“DAISY”) launched last year, will do two things:

– give new mums the chance to be connected with another experienced mother to get support; and

– at the same time help investigate the benefits of peer support for mums who give birth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Della Forster from the Women’s Midwifery and Maternity Services Research Unit said that the study will give health professionals valuable insight into the impact of COVID-19 on the mental wellbeing of new mums.

“In Australia, 22 per cent of new mums experience postnatal depression or anxiety – equating to an estimated 68,000 women each year,” said Professor Forster.

“Risk factors include a history of mental health issues and a lack of support and social isolation which is why, with COVID-19 and its related restrictions across Australia, we feel the findings of this study will be helpful for women and health professionals.”

Professor Forster says new mums who have given birth at the Women’s or the Northern Hospital who are eligible and wants to be involved will be paired with a trained volunteer – someone who has had a child and has recovered from postnatal depression or anxiety herself – to provide telephone support.

Researchers will continue to train new volunteers to provide the peer support for this project. The volunteers can be from anywhere in Australia and can receive the four-hour training via video-conferencing.

“One small positive of this pandemic is that it has provided us with the opportunity to move our volunteer training online and, as a result, it is accessible across Australia. We encourage any mum who has been through postnatal depression or anxiety – and recovered – to reach out to us, as they might be able to help a fellow mum going through a really tough time,” said Professor Forster.

/Public Release.