Australia’s peak body in perinatal mental health has exposed the hidden challenges on the journey to parenthood.

1,899 Australians were part of a detailed survey, carried out by the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE), with 75 per cent of participants reporting a tough first year.

Numerous participants revealed they faced extremely hard pregnancies – often struggling with prolonged and very severe morning sickness, family violence, and body image.

Birth trauma left over a third of respondents feeling either “powerless” or “violated” due to the physical and emotional trauma they experienced.

Dr. Nicole Highet – who founded COPE – says the new research also shows the many people affected by miscarriage and still-birth described their “shattering”, “heartbreaking” and “traumatic” situations.  She says many people clearly feel alone and isolated in their experiences. 

Dr. Highet said the new results are a wake-up call that much more needs to be done to help expectant/new parents. She highlights a third of respondents were impacted in a big way by infertility. 

Dr. Highet says in numerous cases pregnancy was “far from the glowing experience” that many had hoped for.  She also pointed out some health professionals are unaware of anxiety/depression symptoms and then sometimes mis-attributed them to being “a normal part of pregnancy”.

COPE says the blissful experiences often promoted by social media/magazines/movies are far from the actual reality. 

Natasha Lindros, Lead of Clinical Programs at COPE, said while the survey captured a broad range of perspectives, more work needs to be done to understand the experiences of expectant and new parents in First Nations communities.

Natasha Lindros, COPE, Lead of Clinical Programs.