Mardi Walker is determined that no woman be left to cope alone with anxiety and depression during pregnancy and motherhood.
A women’s health educator, Mrs Walker, of Yerong Creek, has facilitated the Riverina Perinatal Mental Health Initiative, and an open public forum examining the issue.
The forum will be held on Friday, September 22, at the Wagga RSL Club, from 6.30pm.
Mrs Walker is also a guest speaker on the Country Lifestyle program at Henty on Tuesday, September 19, at 12.40pm.
In the past, Mrs Walker has run support groups and been a community advocate for women suffering pre and post-natal depression.
An endorsed enrolled nurse, she experienced peri-natal depression while pregnant with her first child when she was 28.
In her first six weeks of the pregnancy, Mardi was struck with hyperemesis gravidarum, a complication characterised by severe nausea, weight loss and dehydration.
“I was working night duty at the Henty hospital at the time and it felt like being hit by a truck,’’ she said.
“With hyperemesis gravidarum, the hormones end up at loggerheads with the body.
“I started at 56 kilograms and by 16 weeks of the pregnancy I was down to an emaciated 42kg and didn’t have enough strength to walk.
“This set me up for a mind set that I was going to die – nobody could tell me if it would affect the baby.
“This is what we call a traumatic experience which can cause all sorts of issues if not treated ante-natally.’’
Mrs Walker went on to give birth normally to her son Cameron but her depression and anxiety deepened.
She struggled to maintain a normal routine despite strong support from her husband.
“It wasn’t until Cameron was nine months old that it clicked I was seriously unwell,’’ she said.
Today, Mrs Walker advocates for early intervention treatment and resources for regional and rural pregnant women and their families, and facilitated an ante and post-natal depression support network in Wagga for several years.
She collaborates with the St John of God Hospital in Sydney and has educated students on post-natal depression at the Charles Sturt University midwifery residential school.
St John of God Raphael Services provide holistic, person-centred therapies to treat postnatal depression and anxiety.
Funding from St John of God Raphael Services and Riverina Blue Bell has enabled the Riverina Perinatal Mental Health Initiative to go ahead.
Education sessions will be held for health practitioners at the Primary Health Network conference room, Wagga, on Thursday, September 21.
“I would like to see as many clinicians, whether that be allied health, general practitioners or specialists and gynaecologists to attend,’’ Mrs Walker said.
“On the Friday, there will be in-services for clinician training at Wagga Base Hospital and Calvary Hospital.
“If perinatal depression is not fixed, it can last a lifetime.
“Not only does it affect the mother in her own right, it effects the relationship and other children.
“If we can nip these issues in the beginning stages, these women will have continuity of care.’’