Baby Coming – You Ready?: new screening tool helping pregnant Aboriginal women face challenges

Tiahna Papertalk trialling a new took to screen for perinatal and postnatal depression. Pic: Tiahna Papertalk.
Tiahna Papertalk trialling a new took to screen for perinatal and postnatal depression. Pic: Tiahna Papertalk.

A NEW screening tool developed for pregnant Aboriginal women is being praised by its users as providing a culturally-safe space to discuss the social and emotional challenges they face.

Called ‘Baby Coming – You Ready?’, the tool uses illustrations on an iPad, phone or laptop to open up and guide dialogue between expectant parents and doctors and nurses about how they are coping in the lead-up to their child’s birth.

High Wycombe mother-of-three Tiahna Papertalk (24) was one of the first young parents to test the program, ahead of a roll-out of the pilot in September.

Ms Papertalk said the illustrations helped her understand her own emotions and were a good way to start a conversation with clinicians.

“It’s good to know that you have that option to talk about things,” she said.

“Sometimes, you don’t really know what you’re feeling, and seeing the pictures helps you understand yourself and your emotions.

“It makes things a lot clearer.”

The tool is based on a research project conducted at Murdoch University by PhD student Jayne Kotz with Aboriginal mothers and fathers from around the state.

Ms Kotz said the two-way assessment tool, which screens for perinatal and postnatal depression, was designed as an alternative model to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and is part of an early intervention strategy for expectant parents.

Research shows Aboriginal women experience significantly higher levels of anxiety and distress than non-Aboriginal women of the same age during pregnancy.

Ms Kotz said Aboriginal people were traditionally not well screened during the perinatal period, and there was no evidence the EPDS, which was developed in Scotland 40 years ago, was effective or culturally-safe for Aboriginal families.

She said Aboriginal mothers and fathers were often younger than their non-Aboriginal counterparts and they faced sometimes complex emotional, financial and relationship issues on top of sleep disturbances, low mood and low energy.

“It’s important that young Aboriginal families get better access to support which makes them feel heard and which involves them in the dialogue,” she said.

“The feedback we are receiving is that participants is that they are more likely to attend their antenatal appointments if this new model is adopted.”

Director of the Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity, Professor Rhonda Marriott, said the program would have a strong impact in closing the gap in perinatal care between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people.

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