More conversations needed on maternal mental health - advocates

Source: 1News

More conversations need to be had about maternal mental health in Aotearoa, advocates say.

The leading cause of death for women who are pregnant or who have just given birth in Aotearoa is suicide.

Aotearoa's rate is seven times higher than the UK, with wāhine Māori making up 57% of all maternal suicides.

Both Mothers Matter ambassador Te Rauhiringa Brown and her mother Joanne Rama, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aoteroa's kaumātua and cultural advisor, have struggled with their mental health after giving birth.

Rama, a mother of seven, told Breakfast it was not until her third pregnancy she got help and started healing.

She said she held a lot of anger after having ovarian cancer. Rama was going to be given a hysterectomy in Australia, but a doctor in New Zealand left her with an eighth of an ovary.

Rama also said at a 20 week scan in an earlier pregnancy she had lost a twin and this was where she fell into a "deep depression".

A pregnant mother.

A midwife for about 18 years, Rama said: "What I'm calling for is just more kindness, more aroha, and talk about it. Let's talk about it."

Brown, who is also a reporter for Seven Sharp, told Breakfast she had perinatal depression and anxiety with her boys.

She reflected she was "really lucky" to have her mother and kuia explain to her what it was.

Brown said it is not commonly spoken of and this needs to change.

"Perinatal depression and anxiety looks like anger. It looks like obsessive compulsive disorder, it's not just crying and sadness. It's all these other things," Brown said.

"When your whānau aren't educated, well informed, they can't support you accordingly because they think you're just being dramatic or over the top or you're just constantly pottering around and cleaning all the things, not realising that you're kind of in a state of perinatal depression and anxiety.

"There's more conversations that need to be had so that our wāhine are not only heard, but our whanau and our communities can support them to start healing."

Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Week is from May 1-7.