Maternal mental health programme for pregnant Queenstowners

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A free programme aimed at helping pregnant women is being launched in the Wakatipu this week. 

Under the pilot programme, Queenstown Lakes Family Centre (QLFC) is offering one-on-one sessions for every local pregnant 
woman and their partner to discuss issues that might arise before and after their baby is born. 

Women during their first trimester will be referred to the centre by their GP and given a pamphlet entitled ‘Pregnancy and You’ to explain the programme, which is thought to be a New Zealand first. 

QLFC registered nurse Maria Frewen says: “What we’re trying to prevent is the emergence of mental illness or postnatal depression and other anxieties related to being a parent and coping with a baby. 

“This is about helping women to identify what are normal feelings, and at what point they need some extra help.” 

Frewen says women will be advised on what support is available in the Wakatipu from professionals and community services. 

Many local women are isolated from family networks, she says. 

“The last six years of working with mothers and young children, the number of times I go to a house and they say, ‘oh God, I wish I knew this when I was pregnant’.” 

QLFC general manager Ilona Weekley says the sessions also offer a chance for women and their partners to talk, possibly for the first time, about how they’ll approach parenthood, for example issues like how they’ll discipline their child. 

“Later on the focus is the delivery and then baby’s here and there is no time to think about anything but just to react.” 

The pilot programme is being funded by Queenstown Medical Centre (QMC), which has supported QLFC for the past two years. 

QMC chief operating officer Shane Zeederberg says the programme is brilliant. 

“Anything that raises awareness and does health promotion is what we really want to be firmly behind – in the early years, prevention’s better than cure.” 

Weekley says the centre’s especially grateful for QMC’s support because funding for prevention programmes is often hard to get. 

QLFC and QMC will review the programme in three months.