Mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety are very common before, and after childbirth. Depression is experienced by up to 15% of all women in the postpartum period, although these rates may be as high as 20% for New Zealand women (McGill, Benzie-Burrows, Holland, Langer & Sweet, 1995; Johnstone, & Read, 2000).
The risks associated with delayed/lack of treatment for postnatal depression can have significant adverse effects on early mother-infant attachment and interaction, and can negatively impact the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development of the child (BPAC, 2010).
As part of the public health sector, Well Child nurses play a considerable role in protecting the wellbeing of children and families. The nurses role includes working in partnership with multidisciplinary agencies and the community, ensuring all families with children under the age of 5 receive a service founded upon health promotion and protection policies and initiatives. Preventive and screening measures are the staple of Well Child primary health care nursing practice, and Plunket is considerably involved in the development of health promotion policy and action in the community (Royal New Zealand Plunket Society Inc 2009).
As a Well Child nurse, it is fundamental to understand the significance of maternal mental health and the effect depression and anxiety can have on many other health aspects. Mental health is considered to be a complex and sensitive aspect of well being, and a great amount of therapeutic communication skill, experience, and knowledge is required of the Primary health nurse in the process of educating, screening and providing support through the postpartum period (Cohen, Wang, & Nonacs, 2010).
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... risk factors (Including maternal mental health) during the prenatal period by the Midwife to the corresponding Well Child provider. This can be added to the referral form and should also include any support networks/services that are in place to rectify, reduce, or eliminate the concerns. Prenatal and postnatal collaboration is paramount in ensuring the best start for every baby. When prenatal risk factors are identified and shared within a continued care context, a wider picture of health can be identified and supported (Furlong, 2005). Early recognition of maternal mental health risk factors can lead to more effective prevention and protective strategies, such as psychosocial support. Disclosure between healthcare providers may allow for the faster identification and management of postnatal depression, and aid in the reduction of its effects (Freeman et al, 2005).
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