Conception, pregnancy, childbirth, the postnatal period, and the early parenting years can pose difficulties for many people. Researchers and practitioners need to stay abreast of the experiences people face to continue to update their understanding of how best to support people with such challenges.
Back in 2001, over 300 new mothers participated in my research study - for which I will be eternally grateful. As a result, the findings of this research furthered our understanding of postnatal anxiety, at a time when postnatal depression had received the preponderance of postnatal research, and anxiety was conspicuously lacking in research attention.
Ongoing research is vital for practitioners and policy makers to integrate people’s lived experiences into the work and support they provide.
The psychologists at the Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network are passionate about facilitating the collection of data for researchers whose research studies support the mental health of perinatal women, men, couples and ultimately, children.
How you can help
Do you have some time to participate in a research study that could further inform practitioners who work with hopeful parents, pregnant women, birthing women, women and partners in the postnatal period, and early parenthood?
The Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network provides an online research portal for academic researchers (in the perinatal field) to post their studies, giving visitors to the APPN site the option of supporting research, and striving for further meaning from their personal experiences.
Studies requiring participation
Under each listed study, you will see the participants being sought. If you meet the criteria for participation, you will find links to the study on our website here.
Charles Sturt University investigating childbirth experiences and trauma in first time mothers.
Participants required: First time mothers over 18, who have given birth over one month ago at 37+ weeks gestation.
University of Queensland investigating resilience to stress, in families following preterm birth.
Participants required: Parent of a preterm infant, child, or adolescent who is now 0-18 years of age.
QUT Investigating how mothers use social media and what effects social media use can have on mothers. Participants required: Mothers of children aged between 0-4 years.
Melbourne Uni undertaking Delphi expert consensus study: Establishing expert consensus about interventions for preventing and ameliorating the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Participants required: Health practitioners, educators, policy makers, researchers or program managers whose work relates to family or child health and well-being in Australia.
Royal Women’s Hospital & Monash University evaluating different approaches to improving sleep for first-time mothers who currently experience sleeping difficulties.
Participants required: First-time mothers who are less than 32 weeks pregnant and currently experiencing sleep difficulties.
University of Adelaide investigating experiences of Secondary Infertility: Emotions, Support and Coping Strategies.
Participants required: Women and/or their partners who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for at least 12 months after having had a successful pregnancy/pregnancies.
University of Adelaide LGBTQI+ Experiences of Pregnancy Loss: Perceptions of Formal and Informal Support and the Impact on Mental Health.
Participants required: People who identify as LGBTQIA+ who have experienced pregnancy loss more than 6 months and less than 10 years ago.
University of Melbourne investigating women’s and men’s experiences of miscarriage, with the ultimate goal of ending the silence around miscarriage.
Participants required: Women, partners and family members affected by miscarriage more than 3 months ago but within 2 years.
Monash University. This study aims to understand how the brain changes in the transition to motherhood. Participants required: First-time mothers 10-14 months postpartum with or without a diagnosis of postnatal depression.
University of the Sunshine Coast exploring the impact that fertility issues have on Australian's women's quality of life whilst trying to conceive.
Participants required: Women currently trying to conceive, experiencing fertility difficulties.
Deakin University investigating whether late pregnancy affects women's cognitive functioning.
Participants required: 20 women in their third trimester of pregnancy and 20 women who are not pregnant, have never been pregnant and are not planning to become pregnant in the next 12 months.
Latrobe University aiming to understand factors associated with well-being in same-sex attracted women during the perinatal period, to improve services for this group.
Participants required: Same sex attracted pregnant women and new mums.
Curtain University aims to establish a set of clinical guidelines for health professionals on the assessment, treatment, and management of individuals with perinatal OCD.
Participants required: Parents with personal experience of perinatal OCD, and clinicians/researchers with expertise in perinatal OCD.
Swinburne University explores the potentially different postnatal experiences of First-Time and Experienced Mothers, including well-being, feelings about motherhood and perceptions of Maternal and Child Health Nurse support.
Participants required: All mothers who have had a baby within the last 2 years, are over 18 years of age, living in Australia, and speak fluent English.
University of Liverpool is looking at how infant feeding attitudes change from pregnancy to the postpartum period.
Participants required: Women in the third trimester of pregnancy (over 35 weeks).
University of South Australia is looking at whether what you eat in pregnancy affects your mood during pregnancy and after.
Participants required: Women who are 8-15 weeks pregnant at the start of the study (now).
Bond University is conducting research on couples experiencing infertility in order to contribute to the development of helpful fertility related psychological support programs.
Participants required: Couples experiencing infertility.
CQ University's study Experiences of Pregnancy and the Year After Birth, is being conducted to further improve screening and treatments for perinatal mood disorders.
Participants required: Women over the age of 18, who are currently pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months.
Please click here to check your eligibility to participate in one of the listed studies.
Your experience could make an enormous difference to the experiences of others.
Thank you for your consideration and potential contribution towards these important research studies.
Dr Renée Miller
Principal Clinical Psychologist
Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network and The Perinatal Loss Centre
"I never expected to be flooded with so many emotions".
"I feel intensely protective and utterly fearful".
"I feel helpless and sometimes, useless".
"I have this constant worry that something bad is going to happen".
"I was traumatised from seeing my partner in labour, but I knew I had to be strong for her".
"Work seems irrelevant but I feel a pressure to perform because my family is depending on me".
"I don't know who I am anymore".
"What's happened to my wife?"
"I feel exhausted all the time".
These are just some of the thoughts and feelings men have shared in the therapy rooms of the Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network.
Depression, anxiety and stress is common in new dads, but the focus is often on new mums. This can mean that dads feel unjustified in seeking help, and worse still, they feel like seeking help in some way implies weakness.
New parenthood is a developmental stage (just like toddlerhood, adolescence, adulthood). With it comes change, uncertainty, new learning, and a need for re-definition (both for the self, and for the couple relationship). Struggling is par for the course.
New parenthood forces people to acknowledge the ways in which they were parented. This can be confronting, and can present challenges for new parents, especially when their parenting backgrounds were difficult, traumatic, or significantly different from that of their partners'. Some men feel paralysed with fear about parenting like their own parents, but don't know how to do things differently, especially in the toddler years. Parenting support and guidance can make an enormous difference.
Some men struggle because their partners become unwell in pregnancy or the postnatal period (with depression, anxiety, stress or in rare cases, psychosis). We often see men who have 'held the fort' while their partners were being treated, who then 'hit the wall' themselves - buckling under the unexpected pressure of taking care of their partners and babies, while trying to function at work.
Speaking to a mental health professional is about resourcing yourself to better manage in this new life role. Arguably, the most important role of your life. As the Royals William, Harry and Kate discuss in this youtube video, "talking is medicine".
If you are struggling as a new dad, you can contact the phone counsellors at PANDA on 1300 726 306, see your GP, or seek the help of a psychologist. You may have a work Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that you could access.
Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) offers free emails to new dads (synced with the stage of fatherhood they are at), with trustworthy and supportive insights, strategies and advice. Dads can sign up for their emails here: www.cope.org.au/readytocope/
If you're interested in reading quality parenting articles (curated by a Clinical Psychologist), you can follow the Facebook Page of the Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network. Stay informed about evidence-based parenting approaches that support you through the challenges of parenthood (especially through the toddler years).
You could also follow Dr Matthew Roberts's Town Hall Dads Facebook page - dedicated to fathers.
Written by Dr Renée Miller
Principal Clinical Psychologist
Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network
If you've become a parent, you're likely to have been catapulted into a vastly different life to the one you had before. A new identity, new roles responsibilities and routines, and lots of questions about how you're going and how you're feeling as a parent. Parents often look to other parents or professionals for good quality information to help guide them in both their parenting and in their life adjustments.
The psychologists from the Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network have compiled a list of resources that we recommend to our clients, that you might find helpful.
The Ted Talks We Love is an ever evolving page on our website that lists Ted Talks on topics such as building emotional security and resilience in children; self-compassion and self-esteem; managing anger; the strength in vulnerability; the pressures of modern day life and the importance of slowing down; and understanding introversion.
These Ted Talks can be found here.
We also have a selection of videos that cover topics of mental health in new parents, and parenting.
These videos can be found here.
Hope you find these resources helpful.
Dr Renée Miller
Posted by Dr Renée Miller