Clinical psychologist, Perinatal Mental Health
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I enjoy my job. It’s quite fascinating. I’m a perinatal psychologist and I work with mums and babies.
My case load includes women who are experiencing anxiety and depression during pregnancy or after the baby is born, up to the time baby is 12-months-old.
Clients tend to be referred by their GPs (general practitioners), midwives or Plunket nurse.
In a typical day here I see patients back-to-back, with half an hour between people to write notes.
It’s not all post-natal depression.
There are issues that also impact pregnant women, like post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders or general mental health issues.
Women with post traumatic stress disorder may have had something happen in their past – sexual abuse or a traumatic birth experience or a miscarriage with the last baby – and with this pregnancy they are feeling a lot of anxiety.
A woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder might find during pregnancy her anxiety levels increase, sometimes due to the hormones. I have had clients whose hands are raw because they are feeling more anxious.
People with existing depression can find that pregnancy symptoms and tiredness can trigger off feelings of ‘how will I cope once baby arrives’.
A lot of my ‘professional women’ have a whole lot of identity issues when they get pregnant; a woman used to lots of control realises how very little control she has with a baby.
Socially, it may be the loss of her job and pressure around finances and relationships may change.
I am just so fascinated by human behaviour, it’s what got me into psychology.
" I like to see mothers transition and grow into the new role..."
I like to see mothers transition and grow into the new role. And I like to hold newborns.
During a session we talk things through, about a client’s current circumstances and how they have coped with stress and adversity in the past, and what their struggles are.
Helping mums who have lost babies is hard. You have that connection and as a mum you can’t help but think how would I feel.
The main thing is to let them tell their story. You have to let them do it at their pace, and own the process, because it is about them.
A client recently emailed me and said ‘I really like your down-to-earth style. You really let me tell my story and you wanted to listen to what I had to say’.
She felt that no matter what she said, no matter how crazy, she would be supported.
I just walk a journey with them for a little while, and I know some skills that might be helpful.
I’ve been here since February.
I work here three days a week and run my own private practice two days a week. It’s good working here, being part of a team.
I have a nursing and social work background and I’m a qualified paramedic so I can see a (health) issue from multiple points of view.
I nursed for 17 years and then did a social work qualification, and then decided to go to university as an adult student.
I’m also a single mum and I understand how hard it can be.
I usually see my clients weekly. When a mum is ready she might cut back to seeing me once a month, just to check in.
We also use quite a few community agencies and can refer clients on to other mental health services, if more help is required for the client – agencies such as Anglican Action, Salvation Army, groups like that.