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PANDA week – Perinatal Mental Health Specialist Midwife
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PANDA week – Perinatal Mental Health Specialist Midwife

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To conclude PANDA week, we spoke with Michelle Cambrey, Perinatal Emotional Health Specialist Midwife at St Vincents’s Private Hospital in Melbourne. 

Michelle has experienced first-hand, the real and very damaging effects of postnatal depression and anxiety. “Twenty-four years ago I had my first baby. My baby was born at 35 weeks, I had severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome, resulting in liver and kidney failure. At the time I was told that I was lucky to be alive and lucky to have my baby, I should just get on with my life.”

“It’s not hard for me to say now that I was an obvious candidate for postnatal depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, however there wasn’t the awareness around PND and anxiety during this time, nor the specialised psychologist or psychiatrists with expertise in this area. Perinatal mental health has really only come to the forefront in the last five years.

Michelle went on to have another three children but not until her first was 9 years old as the trauma of her first birth experience had a significant impact. “Grief and trauma never really leave you, however you learn to live with it. It’s not as raw, but it’s still part of who I am.” Her desire to help other women and make a difference to new mums drove her to midwifery first, and to specialise in the perinatal sector afterwards.

As far as she sees it, “if a woman is supported mentally and physically, she has the optimal chance of being well and therefore the family, the new baby connection and transition to parenthood may not be as challenging.”

This type of mother-first care, is leading a change in the way perinatal mental health is being recognised. Michelle would like to see a focus made on antenatal education with discussions around mental health and wellbeing and the adjustments to parenthood. In providing education antenatally, it could help prepare families prior to the birth.

“There are so many factors that can feed into postnatal depression. Birth trauma can have a significant impact; there are significant changes going on in a woman’s body; there is the physical recovery from birth as well as the hormonal rollercoaster; and then there can be the anxiety and pressure around breastfeeding – that can be a huge trigger for PND.”

Michelle works alongside extremely skilled obstetricians and midwives to try and capture as many women as possible before they have their babies. “Women are often referred to me during their pregnancies because they may already be displaying some symptoms or because they fall into a high-risk categories. If women are supported through their pregnancy and beyond with a skilled team which incorporates their doctors, psychologist, psychiatrists, midwives and MCHN, they are then set up to have optimal recovery and transition to motherhood. It is about the continued raising of awareness and having those important conversations."

Today is the last day of PANDA week — an important chance to encourage conversation and raise awareness of perinatal anxiety and depression. While prevalent in society, these issues remain shrouded in 'ickiness' and continue to be difficult to discuss.

Both founders of Not a Pony had their own experiences with post natal depression, which is why we are so focused on elevating mothers, shining a light on sensitive issues, and why the Tired Mama Pack is amongst our core offering. We know first-hand the difference it can make when someone sees your struggle, acknowledges it without judgement, and offers help.

This week we have shared our own stories, as well as those of our amazing friends and followers so that we can help reduce the stigma around PND and encourage open and 'ick'-free discussion about mental health. 

5% of all sales this week will be donated to @pandanational to help fund their life-saving work, so if you've been thinking about showing someone some love with one of our prints or packs, today is a great day to do it!