Perinatal Depression – Hot topics in Perinatal Mental Health – Professor Anne Buist

Posted on: July 16, 2019
Last Updated: August 1, 2019

Prof Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. Anne has more than 30 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry and works with the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Her work has had direct implications for clinical care as well as assisting in advising government and health services to ensure good outcomes.

Author Quotes 

We found that as research data was coming out, that really these disorders were often starting in pregnancy, so we really wanted to get in and identify, and treat early and assertively.

Think about the medication you’re using and the effects that has on the foetus, or if you’re lactating, on the breastfed baby.

In both countries [India and Australia] there are similarities if there is a genetic predisposition. There is this biological underpinning that is important.

Summary and slides  

Professor Buist begins her presentation by asserting that depression in expectant mothers commonly begins during pregnancy and that this is a key time for mental health practitioners to begin interventions to ensure the best outcomes for the family. 

She highlights that what happens in this period is very important in determining future outcomes for the child and flags that perinatal depression resulting in suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in most countries. She notes that medication used to treat perinatal depression may impact the foetus and later the baby, through breastmilk. 

She goes on to discuss the prevalence and symptoms of postpartum psychosis. She then highlights similarities in perinatal depression in low and highincome countries, due to lack of support, and the likelihood of better outcomes for more educated and affluent women. 

She introduces progress in the perinatal psychiatry field over time and this is covered later in the presentation. 

She talks about being involved in introducing screening for perinatal depression in Australia via the Beyondblue program. 

Professor Buist completes this segment by saying that screening for perinatal depression is not being used consistently, but that it really should be, or patients will be missed. 

Take Home Messsages:

  • Perinatal depression is the leading cause of maternal death in most countries. 
  • Medication used to treat perinatal depression can impact the baby directly or through breastmilk. 
  • How perinatal depression is treated has a lasting effect on future outcomes of the child. 


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