A Shorten Labor Government will establish a universal perinatal depression screening program for every expectant woman and new mother across Australia.

Labor believes every child should have the best start at life and new parents should be supported through what can be a very challenging time of transition in their lives.

Perinatal depression is a quiet, under-reported epidemic in Australia and is a significant cause of maternal death and disability.

The evidence shows that up to one in ten women experience depression in pregnancy and that this increases to one in seven in the postnatal period.  Rates of anxiety are likely to be even higher.

Men are also affected. According to Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) up to one in 20 men experience postnatal depression.

Research also indicates that 74 per cent of mothers with pre and/or postnatal depression or anxiety do not seek help until they reach the point that they cannot cope.

Labor’s National Plan will:

  • Ensure that all pregnant women are screened to identify their risk of perinatal depression and the presence of possible symptoms, in a cost efficient and sustainable way.
  • Empower women and families with tailored information to guide and support them.
  • Facilitate best practice early intervention, treatment and support.
  • Integrate screening results into the My Health Record to ensure seamless referrals to health practitioners.
  • Collect consistent national data to support monitoring, evaluation, awareness raising, research, education and continued destigmitisation activities.
  • Encourage private practitioners to adopt screening as a key element of a woman’s perinatal care.

Despite all the evidence of the prevalence of perinatal depression and anxiety in Australia and the known cost of not treating the condition being estimated at $538 million per annum in 2013, the Abbott-Turnbull Government abolished the National Perinatal Depression Initiative in 2015.

Labor's National Plan for Excellence in Perinatal Mental Health will reinstate a digital screening program and follow-up support for new parents in the perinatal period across all public hospitals, maternal and child health clinics and in other health services providing care to pregnant women in regional and remote areas of Australia.

The 5-year program has been independently costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $20 million and will be rolled out with the support of State, Territory and local governments to ensure that every woman in Australia can be supported during pregnancy and in the critical first year of a baby's life.

Only Labor will prioritise perinatal mental health of new mums and dads so that their babies can get the best start in life.

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