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Contemp Nurse. 2010 Apr-May;35(1):58-67. doi: 10.5172/conu.2010.35.1.058.

From 'postnatal depression' to 'perinatal anxiety and depression': key points of the National Perinatal Depression Plan for nurses and midwives in Australian primary health care settings.

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  • 1School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia.



Perinatal anxiety and depression constitute one of the long term major public health issues in Australia and for too long they has been bundled under the over-arching term of 'postnatal depression'. However, the generation, funding, and implementation of the National Perinatal Depression Plan (NPDP) (Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, 2008), across all Australian States and Territories, are proving to be wide-reaching and influential. Not only does the NDPD move from the umbrella term of 'postnatal depression' to establish the reality of perinatal anxiety and depression which women can experience from conception to the first year of the infant's life but also all States and Territories have made Individual Investment Plans for the implementation of the NPDP.


In these Investment Plans, each State and Territory will address the following three major goals of the NPDP differently and mainly within a primary health care setting: (1) Psychosocial assessment in addition to screening of women antenatally and postnatally; (2) Education of health professionals about the complexity of perinatal depression and the need for early assessment and intervention; (3) Development of quality pathways of care for follow-up support and care of women who are depressed and who are assessed as being at the risk for depression.


General nurses, maternal child health nurses, midwives, and mental health nurses are spread throughout primary health care settings. Three essential aspects of the NPDP are pertinent to their practice: (1) the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS); the 2008 beyondblue National Action Plan for Perinatal Mental Health (NAP); and the Draft beyondblue Clinical Practice Guidelines for depression and related disorders - anxiety, bipolar disorder, and puerperal psychosis - in the perinatal period (March 2010). The author addresses these three aspects of the NPDP by citing two personal accounts by women who have experienced perinatal anxiety and depression; these accounts are available in the public domain.

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