Maternal Mental Health Research

Geoffrey Betts Postdoctoral Fellowship

‘Prevention and early intervention for maternal mental illness: a research program that will inform policy and clinical practice ‘

Newcastle University, NSW
Awarded 2018

“The childbearing years are a time of increased mental health morbidity for women, with potentially devastating consequences for children and families.”

Researcher Profile

Dr Nicole Reilly has worked in the field of perinatal mental health for over 15 years. She is dedicated to better understanding the impact of preventive and early intervention programs on mental health outcomes for women and families, to evaluating the value of national health reform at population-based levels, and to supporting the translation of high quality research into the best models of service delivery.

She is an author on over 30 peer-reviewed publications and two book chapters in her chosen field, and is a named investigator on projects totaling over $3 million dollars in competitive national and international research funding.

Project Summary

Around one in seven Australian women will be diagnosed with depression or anxiety during pregnancy and the first postnatal year. Yet many of these women will not be identified nor treated, greatly increasing their risk for poorer health outcomes for themselves and their children.

Using her previous work and research partnerships as a concrete foundation, Nicole’s goal is to lead the generation of new knowledge in the field of perinatal mental health. The first phase of her research will include the most comprehensive examination of the impact of preventive programs and service improvements for perinatal mental health conducted in Australia to date, and her unique inclusion of population-based mental health outcome data will fill a significant gap in the evidence base.

In the second phase of her work, Nicole will quantify the degree to which health professionals work to best practice guidance for perinatal mental health and will identify underlying factors associated with adherence and non-adherence attitudes and behaviours. The third phase of her research will focus of the validation of a brief psychosocial assessment tool developed specifically for pregnant women and new mothers, and which meets new MBS item requirements. This tool will allow health care providers to routinely identify women who are at increased risk of poor mental health outcomes, or needing further mental health assessment, so that appropriate options for referral and management can be offered early.

Importantly, Nicole will continue to work closely with clinicians and policy makers, to ensure that her research findings are used to inform policy and service development, and clinical practice.