Wanted: Mums to help new mums at risk

La Trobe University is looking for Victorian women to take part in a unique research project supporting new mums at risk of developing postnatal depression and anxiety.

The DAISY study (Depression and anxiety telephone peer support study) will link mothers who have experienced, and recovered from, postnatal depression or anxiety with those who have recently given birth who might benefit from some extra support.

Lead researcher Professor Della Forster, from La Trobe’s Judith Lumley Research Centre, said about 200 volunteer mothers would receive training to become telephone peer supporters to more than 500 new mothers in Melbourne’s north and west.

“Each of our trained volunteers will be assigned a new mother who will be recruited from the municipalities of Wyndham and Hume, and who have been identified as being at risk of postnatal depression or anxiety by their maternal and children health nurses at their four week visit,” Professor Forster said.

“Through regular calls, our volunteers will provide the new mothers with much needed support for up to six months and help identify any problems as they arise. If necessary, our team will be able to act quickly and provide professional help.”

Professor Forster said researchers would compare the effectiveness of new mothers receiving additional regular telephone contact from other mothers to usual care from nurses and GPs.

“Nurses and GPs will always play a really important role in providing health care to new mothers and their babies, but not all mothers are comfortable discussing mental health issues with them,” Professor Forster said.

“We need to find new strategies to tackle the postnatal depression, and we believe women with first-hand experience of postnatal depression with the right training might help prevent new cases.

“The rate of postnatal depression has remained unchanged for 25 years in Australia, affecting an estimated 53,000 women each year or one in six mothers. It really is a major public health issue.”

Professor Forster said a similar trial in Canada resulted in a 54 per cent relative reduction in depression among mothers who received maternal telephone support compared with those who did not.

“We want to build on this promising work by creating a tailored program that will work in the Australian context, with a longer period of peer support and enhanced training and monitoring.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council has provided $850,000 in funding for the project, due to start in early 2019.

Mothers interested in becoming trained telephone volunteers should register their interest by emailing daisy@latrobe.edu.au