Insights on Perinatal Challenges in Australia

Arabella Gibson CEO_GidgetF

Welcome to an insightful Q&A session with the esteemed executives of Gidget Foundation Australia, a beacon of support for the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents. Named in memory of a vibrant mother known as Gidget, whose tragic battle with postnatal depression underscored the urgent need for specialised care, this not-for-profit organisation embodies her lively spirit.

Perinatal depression and anxiety affect countless families, with statistics revealing staggering numbers: 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers grapple with these conditions annually. Shockingly, maternal suicide ranks among the leading causes of death for expectant and new mothers, accentuating the critical importance of Gidget Foundation’s mission.

Through advocacy, education, and direct services, Gidget Foundation Australia strives to prevent and treat perinatal mental health issues, emphasising early detection and intervention. Join us as we delve into their latest findings, shedding light on the pressing need for support in this vital area of healthcare.



Question 1: Can you share some insights into the key challenges faced by expectant and new parents in Australia, as highlighted by the recent data, and how these challenges impact their mental health?
The data indicates that over two-thirds of expectant and new Australian parents lack a support network of other parents. How does this lack of a support network affect parents, and what are some potential consequences for their mental well-being?

Answered by Karen Edwards, Clinical Director

Being an expectant or new parent can bring new and unique feelings. Adjusting to parenthood can be challenging, especially for first-time parents or those who are parenting following a loss. In fact, we know that almost 50% of new parents experience adjustment disorders, and one in five Australian mothers and one in ten Australian fathers also experience perinatal depression and anxiety.

New data from Gidget Foundation Australia (GFA) reveals that while two in five expectant and new parents rely on other parents for support, one in three say they struggle to connect with other parents. This is a concern, as peer support has been shown to reduce perinatal mental health difficulties and feelings of isolation in new mothers. For this reason, it is important that we continue to create opportunities for safe connections – especially for those parents who feel as though they struggle to connect with other parents.

We’re also finding that isolation is being raised as an issue by more parents at all stages of their parenting journey.  This may be due to changes in societal expectations, the challenges of living rurally, having a challenging birth experience, or simply thinking that they’re the only parent feeling a certain way. Regardless of the reason, helping parents connect with other parents, and health professionals is very important for mental wellbeing. This is why GFA developed our Telehealth ‘Start Talking’ services two years before the pandemic, to meet the needs of rural and regional communities and reduce barriers for all parents in accessing support.

By creating a range of support touchpoints, both virtually and face-to-face, expectant and new parents who are struggling with mental ill-health are better able to access early intervention, which we know is important in reducing distress and improving recovery.

Question 2: The Perinatal Mental Health Support Finder is being launched to help parents find tailored support services for perinatal mental health challenges. Could you explain how this tool works and how it can assist parents in finding the support they need? Peer support has been shown to be effective in reducing perinatal mental health difficulties. What strategies or initiatives are being put in place to help parents connect with other parents and build a support network?

Answered by Arabella Gibson, CEO 

Across the perinatal, mental health and early parenting sector, there are so many amazing organisations that offer tailored services, including specialist psychological services, helplines, peer support, support for stillbirth, grief and loss, NICU supports, multiple births and group programs. The Perinatal Mental Health Support Finder is a navigation tool, developed to assist expectant and new parents to identify the supports that are suited to their needs, their location, as well as where they are along their parenting journey.

Using the support finder, at, the parent or family member answers a series of questions to identify their challenges, the digital tool then shares appropriate support options and resources available, based on the individual’s responses.

We understand that no parent’s lived experience is the same, and so the support finder has been designed as a simple way to find the service – or services – that are right for them. Whether they are mums, dads, non-birthing parents, those with multiple births, traumatic births, and unexpected births – there is a service to help parents in need.

In addition to the above services, Gidget Foundation Australia has developed private, moderated support groups for expectant and new parents aimed at creating a safe space where they can connect, share stories, and experience compassion and kindness from those navigating the same period in their life.

Three ‘Gidget Virtual Villages’ include a peer support group for Dads and non-birthing partners, a group for expectant mums and one for mums postpartum. We invite parents across the country to join and know that they aren’t alone in their journey.


Question 3: The data also reveals that a significant number of Australian parents report not feeling adequately supported by their healthcare providers during their early parenting journey. What steps can be taken to improve training and education for healthcare professionals in this regard?

Answered by Karen Edwards, Clinical Director

Our latest data indicates that two thirds of expectant and new parents reported a lack of adequate  support from their healthcare providers during their early parenting journey. This illustrates the importance of enhancing training and education for health professionals within the perinatal space, to ensure the right support is available, as well as the importance of empowering parents to seek  the right support for them.

The Gidget Training & Development Institute has been created to address the nationwide shortage of specialist perinatal mental health clinicians and improve education for those looking to develop specialist skills in this field. Developed and led by Gidget Foundation Australia, the program provides free, comprehensive ‘on the job’ training and supervision for clinicians seeking to enhance their skills in perinatal mental health.

The program is open to clinical or registered psychologists, accredited mental health social workers and mental health occupational therapists, providing further professional development opportunities for graduates. As more clinicians graduate from the program, we are proud to be raising the standard of mental health service delivery, and availability, while improving outcomes for expectant and new parents across the country.


Question 4: With November holding Perinatal Mental Health Week 2023, could you tell us more about the theme ‘We’re here, uncover your village’? How do you envision this theme resonating with parents, and what are the key messages you hope to convey during this awareness week?

Answered by Arabella Gibson, CEO 

The overarching theme, ‘We’re here, uncover your village’ was developed through the insights and focus groups of 125 parents, carers, and professionals working within the perinatal space. Under this umbrella, sub-themes such as how to access and find your village, barriers to reaching out for help, the transition into parenthood, finding the right care for you, taking care of our carers, and helping someone you love were also developed.

These are the areas parents, carers and professionals have told us they need more support with, and we’re hopeful that expectant and new parents will feel heard – as well as feel empowered to take action and build their village of support.

Our biggest message is this: we want Australian families to be able to uncover their village, irrespective of birthing experiences, family makeup, cultural background, or geographical location. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to look after mum, provide support for dad – and be there for all the ups and downs throughout early parenthood.

We want all expectant and new Australian parents to know that they are not alone, we’re here, uncover your village.

Access the Perinatal Mental Health Support Finder to uncover your village of support.