Postnatal depression increases after quakes
Canterbury mothers are suffering from "more complex" postnatal depressions since the earthquakes and the worst is yet to come.
Plunket is experiencing increased demand while women being referred to Princess Margaret Hospital's (PMH) mothers and babies mental health unit are "at the more severe end of the scale", the unit's psychiatrist says.
Clinical leader of the Plunket postnatal adjustment programme Maria van der Plas said demand had "notably increased" this year.
"We're getting about 50 referrals a month which is quite a lot and we're definitely busy," she said.
PMH unit psychiatrist Sue Luty said "the nature of problems had changed" since the earthquakes.
"We have recently had a significant increase in referrals and it may be that we're only now starting to see the effect of the earthquakes on mothers."
Luty said patients were struggling with "more complex problems" and while most had a pre-existing mental health issue the earthquake had "very likely exacerbated it".
"Mothers are also dealing with children who are frightened on top of their home being damaged, but while it may not be directly earthquake-related I would say it has been worsened [by the quakes]."
Christchurch GP Denise Nicholson from mothers matter.co.nz said there had been a 10 per cent increase in general practice mental health services since the February 2011 quake and expected the "worst was yet to come".
"Women with postnatal depression or anxiety have not been identified in these figures but I would assume that the impact of the earthquake will have increased the incidence of postnatal depression or anxiety by a similar amount," she said.
Women who did not have enough support or were dealing with earthquake-related issues would have a higher risk of postnatal depression.
University of Canterbury clinical director of psychology Janet Carter said damage to homes and subsequent home repairs, aftershocks and financial pressures "could be leading to increased anxiety and stress" for new mothers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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