Sarah Short Circuit

Heal, Nourish, Nurture

Tag: Health (page 2 of 4)

Prenatal stress

A mother’s emotional state while pregnant has long lasting effects with cultural, environmental and biological differences. Foetal programming has different sensitive periods and our environment starts in the womb. Sensitive early mothering helps attachment, and can counteract some of what happens in the womb.

It is not just toxic stress that is associated with changes in development and behaviour. Prenatal stress can be pregnancy specific anxiety, maternal mental health and daily hassles. The associated risks in children are that they are more likely to have anxiety and depression, increased aggression, impaired cognitive development, sleep problems, temperament issues. There are risks of physical changes including low birth weight, preterm delivery, decreased telomere length (impacts longevity), decreased immune function and altered microbiome. Some are more affected than others due to the gene-environment interactions, for example, the more depressed, more methylation, more epigenetic changes. 

Just think of the impact globally stress may be having on the next generations. For more info check out

Effects of prenatal anxiety, depression and stress on the child: global implications – Professor Vivette Glover, International Marce Society Conference 2016.


“In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.” – Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

GLOW Perinatal Emotional Health & Wellbeing Clinic – a unique concept on the frontier of perinatal and infant mental health – Dr Araobi Udechuku, International Marcè Society Conference 2016

One third of women deliver in the private system and use some form of complementary medicine. The Glow Clinic in Melbourne, provides a holistic approach to perinatal mental health and has extended the perinatal period from the first 12 months to the first 5 years. This unique service includes not only perinatal psychiatrists and psychologists, paediatrics, midwives, lactation consultants but also early parenting consultants, nutrition, yoga, massage, meditation to support wellness in mind & body for the whole family.

I love Glow’s unique concept and model of care particularly with the lack and fragmentation of health services. I delivered my son in the local private hospital and I was admitted during my episode to the local public hospital with follow up through the public system as well. I have been advised to receive the care I would need if we were to have another baby that I am best to deliver in our public hospital; so what is the point of expensive public health insurance? Any complimentary or holistic services or treatment I were up to me to seek out as I recovered. Follow up appointments with a perinatal psychiatrist were self-initiated only because we were contemplating in having another baby and this was 2 years after my episode. If I see a general health professional or even the local child health clinic, it is up to my own discretion if I mention about my mental health history and how it impacts on my current care needs.

If a service existed like Glow in Sydney I would be still eligible to be receiving care with my son now 4 years old, my whole family would be taken care including my husband who would have the support he needs/needed, I wouldn’t feel conflicted between my wellness and nutrition approach and the advice of health professionals, perhaps I may not have fallen through the medical system cracks and be missed in follow up after my episode, and I would feel more comfortable if we were to have another baby that I would have effective management and support I need in a holistic, integrated, collaborative space.

Marce Society Conference 2016

From being discharged from the local mental health ward 4 years ago from one day to the next day attending the 2016 International Marce Society Conference Frontiers in Perinatal Mental Health I was looking forward to connecting with others and learning more over in Melbourne.

It was an epic 3 days filled with plenary talks, symposiums and workshops of scientific and clinical knowledge on perinatal mental health. Absolutely loved my first Marcè conference connecting and working together to make a difference to reduce the impact, and to increase the awareness, treatment and prevention of maternal mental health.

Particularly loved connecting with consumer organisations Terri from PANDA, Viv from Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness, Jane from Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Action Institute, Prof Ian Jones from Bipolar Disorder Research Network and Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), Emily & Alain from Maternal Mental Health Alliance UK, Vijay Roach and Catherine Knox from Gidget Foundation, and Kellie from Mindfulness 4Mothers.

The highlight for me was meeting and chatting with other mothers Deborah and Brenda who share a lived experience of postpartum psychosis. Another highlight was dining with the international researcher Professor Ian Jones who focuses on research in bipolar disorder and postpartum psychosis discussing my experiences. My vision is to create an Australian network for Postpartum Psychosis to support families with a lived experience of PP and to create awareness in our community about PP.


On Day 1 the Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health (GAMMH) was launched by Dr Alain Gregoire uniting to improve the lives of mothers and their infants everywhere. If this were physical health it would be a national scandal, yet we allow it to carry on. It is critical to establish perinatal mental health as a global priority. We need to demand action, we have evidence of the individual and population needs and we know enough to do something everywhere. We need to broaden our approach, not just health care centred. GAMMH needs you. Aspire. Inspire. Locally, nationally, globally. TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!

How to influence national policy and service provision: the experience of the UK MMHA and Everyone’s Business Campaign – Promoting awareness and service development in perinatal mental health – Dr Alain Gregoire and Emily Slater, International Marce Society Conference 2016.

It’s time to ACT! National accountability, engage community, training for health professionals. Australia it’s time to ACT, to follow the UK’s example and create an Australian Maternal Mental Health Alliance to bring together a diverse range of organisations to create a broad vision with a clear pathway to improve awareness and take responsibility.

At the end of this workshop we wrote down something we will do to initiate change. I wrote to create an Australian network for Postpartum Psychosis supporting mothers and their families and creating awareness in our community. Now is the time to ACT!

I was excited to learn that Louis-Victor Marce, the psychiatrist which the Marce Society was named after, published the first treatise entirely devoted to puerperal psychosis, illness and insanity in pregnancy in 1858. Postpartum psychosis is rare but not a new maternal mental health disorder.

World Maternal Mental Health Day – Dr Angela Bown and Dr Alfonso Gil-Sanchez, International Marcè Society Conference 2016.

Save the date! Wednesday May 3, 2017 is the next World Maternal Mental Health Day. The 2016 theme was #maternalMHmatters. What can you do to create awareness and support for maternal mental health? Check out for more details. The theme for 2017 has yet to be announced so stay tuned…

This conference was inspiring and motivating, I was filled with ideas and wanting to take action! So many aha moments which I will share!

The Wellness Summit 2016

The Wellness Couch thank you for a brilliant weekend filled with inspiring speakers and amazing exhibitors, bringing together so many like-minded people to create the change we wish to see in our world! There were even times with the conversations I had with friends over the weekend I thought some of the speakers had bugged our room. Such a powerful weekend!


Wellness Summit 2016 Day 1

Back to basics, getting the small things right, simplify. Wellness Summit 2016 Day 1.
The Wellness Guys demonstrated poo to make us think about what sustains you, what goes into your body. Pick the keys moments to make the change.
Kim Morrison – you are here now from all the choices you have made, stay in your authentic self moment by moment. Self-awareness leads to self-discipline leads to self-control leads to self-respect leads to self-love.
Jo Whitton –  steps to healing from mental illness, and make time to talk to your kids. Counselling/fighting fears, chiropractic/natural therapies, supplementation, detoxing home/body, practicing gratitude, sleep, nature therapy, exercise/movement, and hobbies & interests. Support each other. Take the time to heal. Support yourself with like minded people.
Fouad –  part of experience is trust in life. Who is the I behind the concept?
Carren Smith –  if we don’t use challenges for what its purpose was we won’t grow and expand. What came first you or your thoughts, emotions, experiences? We all have to stand up and take responsibility for the way we live our lives from the inside out.

An Unexamined Life is a Life Not Worth Living – Socrates

Tim Robards your body is reflection of the environment you put yourself in, look after yourself first.


Laurence Tham – Wellness Summit 2016

No one is coming to save us, it’s your life, take self-control, take self-responsibility, the world does not owe you a single thing.
There are times when you feel on a journey by yourself, others can’t identify, acknowledge the loneliness, don’t try to hide it.
Appreciate the process.
Don’t ignore the conversations with yourself.
Find your child within.
Swim your own race 🏊
Powerful words from Laurence Tham at The Wellness Summit 2016.
And in the words of LT’s gorgeous children Be brave, believe in yourself and never give up


Brett Hill – Wellness Summit 2016

It’s not about other people, it’s about you. It’s how you deal or struggle with stress, it’s not about the size, big or small it’s important to you.
How do you keep going? How do you do it? What’s the alternative? What’s my choice?
Focus first on loving yourself. You haven’t been doing things for yourself because of other people. Do things for yourself because you are worth it.
Make the change to get back on track and go be a better version of you with a clearer version of your why.
Stay curious.
Learn about yourself.
Life is a choice. Choose to believe it happened for a reason.
Challenges faced are a good thing, I am exactly where I need to be.
Recovery from rock bottom happens with one choice, gradually you make more choices because you love yourself.
Life challenges, you don’t know why, it doesn’t make sense, you never know what life has got planned for you.
Something comes along and changes your life in an instant.

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”. – Charlie Chaplin

As tears trickled down my cheek, it was like Brett Hill was talking just to me, not the other 900 people at The Wellness Summit. Thank you Brett for your courage and compassion in sharing your rock bottom with us all


Wellness Summit 2016 Day 2

You have a choice! The Wellness Summit 2016 Day 2.
Damian Kristof – make what we do by having a gentle approach, have fun, make connections. What is the best we can get?
Cyndi O’Meara – we have a crisis. Unless you make a commitment to make a change you will be like the rest if people. It’s time for a paradigm shift

Paradigm Shift – A time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thing about something changes completely – Changing Habits

Hilbilby beer pong! Seeing the speakers have fun on stage and pull the fire tonic faces was such a laugh a minute!


Marcus Pearce – Wellness Summit 2016

We dampen our incredible life at the expense of others.
Put yourself first.
Use being selfish for positive.
Be mindful of your culture, love your culture, create your own culture, protect your culture.
Your peer group is your culture. Choose it wisely.
Your family is your greatest teacher.
Thank you Marcus Pearce for an incredible wrap up of The Wellness Summit 2016! 

MINDD 2016

The MINDD Foundation is committed to improving the lives of children and families by promoting a holistic approach to healthcare and living. After last years MINDD Forum changing the direction of my healing and recovery there was no way I was missing the MINDD Forum this year, especially with the key note speaker being Kelly Brogan.

Dr Nancy O’Hara was back again this year speaking about ‘It wasn’t me it was my germs’; love this concept! We are depleting our microbiome of the nutrients we need by the way we lead our lives. The majority of our immune system resides in our guts. Gut dysfunction is associated with germs including parasites and yeast. It was interesting to learn that a clostridia infection, a bacteria in our gut, has been found to associated with psychosis. The way to treat gut dysfunction is with nutrition as fresh, organic, unprocessed foods that are varied and rotated; probiotics to control inflammation and encourage gut movement; remove stressors;  and the best way to detox is a minimum of 1 stool per day.

There is no such things as junk food; it is either junk or food

– Nancy O’Hara

Great talk on effects of food on anxiety by Trudy Scott, eating real, whole, good quality foods is the foundation to maintaining optimal mental health. A lower risk of depression and anxiety was found with traditional diet of vegetables, fruit, fish, grass-fed meat, and whole grains when compared to western and modern diets in an Australian study by Jacka 2010.

Diet intervention

Trudy Scott

Food is Medicine but there is no “one size fits all” diet. Great talk on Using Bioindividual Nutrition to Personalize Therapeutic Diets. Julie Matthews spoke about how dietary intervention is at the foundation of healing. Individuals have specific dietary needs and diet needs to be bioindividually applied. Keep an open mind as you may need to use a particular diet in the short term or further restrict a diet or prioritize one diet over another or apply more than one dietary principle to improve function with the goal of the least restrictive, most varied diet possible.

no one size fits all

Julie Matthews

What an awesome way to spend a Friday with these inspiring wellness rock stars at the MINDD Forum Food is Medicine day. I loved the cooking demos learning from the best of the best Alexx Stuart, Jo and Isaac Whitton from Quirky Cooking, and Helen Padrin and Charlotte Carr. From digestive calm soup to lemon cheesecake panna cotta to best butter chicken ever to pantry essentials in an non-negotiable hour of power. Nourishing your family with quality, real food is simple, basic to basics home cooking. Change the way we do our shopping and change how we approach new ways of eating. Teach our kids real food, take time to spend with our kids, talk with our kids makes a difference when going through change.

Food is Medicine

Top: Alexx Middle: Isaac and Jo Bottom: Helen and Char

I had the honour of meeting Kelly Brogan MD. Kelly is such an inspiration to me and I am extremely grateful to Kelly for her focus on maternal mental health including postpartum psychosis and showing us that we do have ‪‎capacity to heal‬. Thank you MINDD Foundation for bringing Kelly to Sydney.


Kelly Brogan and me!

Listening to Kelly Brogan speak about the root cause of depression and anxiety and the power of our food was awe inspiring. We need to stop looking at the symptoms and start asking WHY? The whys are sugar imbalance, gluten sensitivity, nutrient deficiencies, and thyroid autoimmunity. Depression is an inflammatory response, a symptom not a disease.

Medication is not better than doing nothing. We don’t know what medications are doing to our microbiome. We are passing the damaged microbiome onto the next generation. The principle mental health intervention needs to be dietary recommendations.

We have knowledge inside us how to interact with food in a healing way but it is hijacked early with processed foods. We have to get back to food as information for gene expression and our microbiome. We need to speak to our nervous system in a different way.

Your body’s ability to heal is greater than anyone has permitted you to believe.

“Through the alchemy of my darkest nights I heal and thrive. Today I rise!”

A beautiful and moving video shared by Kelly Brogan at the end of her talk which had most of the room in tears. We as women will transform this world!

Today I rise

Kira Sutherland spoke about the basic principles of healthy living for optimal wellness are natures 7 healers, of which most of us manage to achieve 2-3. However, if we achieve exercise this cascades into other areas and we are almost always then able to achieve all 7 healers. Exercise helps us to be better adapted to stresss, strengthens our immune system, improves our gut flora, helps our organs to detox, has been shown to be just as good as anti-depressant medications but with positive side effects. 


Kira Sutherland

Other speakers included Erica Peirson on hypothyroidism in children on how brain development and every cell is dependent on the thyroid horone, pregnancy is a stress test on the thyroid and how the microbiome should be nurtured as much as the newborn itself; Elizabeth Mumper spoke about the Management of Prenatal and Postnatal Risk Factors of Autism and that so many things have changed so quickly for our kids and the basic recommendations for pregnancy include a well-balanced, organics, non-GMO diet, green your home, reduce stress, get enough sleep, regular exercise and avoid toxins; and Annalies Corse on Maternal Health and the nutritional considerations for conception, pregnancy, birth recovery  and the 4th trimester, and that it can take greater than 6 weeks for recovery after birth as this transition can be very stressful both emotionally and physiologicaly which can then further deplete us of nutrients and energy, with a labour + c-section birth the hardest delivery from an emotional point of view.

The postpartum period is a time when women tend to be amenable to health counselling; this provides a tremendous opportunity for promoting lifelong healthy habits.

– Annalies Corse

Help the brain heal the gut. A major aha moment for me listening to Dr Carlo Rinaudo talk about the role of the vagus nerve. If the brain is not working properly you have reduced brain-gut activation affecting gut and immune health. The vagus nerve is our largest cranial nerve connected to many different organs in our body.

Low vagal nerve activation results in

  • reduced gut motility
  • reduced release of digestive enzymes
  • reduced blood flow which reduces repair and nutrient transport
  • leaky gut leading to inflammation and autoimmunity

The typical response for low vagal tone is a sympathetic dominant state: adrenal stress, anxiety, poor sleep, hormone imbalances and poor posture. The vagus nerve stimulation has used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, stress, anxiety and depression.

I had vasovagal syncope‬ (fainting) after the birth of my son in the weeks before developing postpartum psychosis. The pieces of my health puzzle are starting to come together.

Vagus Nerve

Dr Carlo Rinaudo

Right time, right place meeting Holly Bridges with a lovely long chat with Holly about the polyvagal theory and the 3 responses to stress: flight, fight and freeze. Our body goes into survival mode, into a state of safety, into a shut down response thanks to a weak control of the vagus nerve. With the help of neuroplasticity it is possible to reconnect the mind-body connection and re-engage the brain.

Holly has a fantastic, easy to read, easy to understand book explaining the polyvagal theory and how this impacts people with Autism. A huge piece of my health puzzle has been ‘reframed’. Thank you Holly!

Reframe Book

Holly Bridges

My books from the MINDD Forum 2016.  So grateful to get my copy A Mind of Your Own signed by Kelly Brogan MD. Finally got my hands on Bubba Yum Yum’s The Paleo Way and get it signed by Char and Helen.


Books from MINDD 2016

Save the date for the third weekend in May 2017 for next years MINDD Forum!


Functional Nutrition Course


ACNEM 2016

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

What an amazing weekend of learning at the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) Nutrition in Medicine conference in the Sydney. So many awesome speakers with many gems of information on toxins in our environment, our microbiome, autoimmunity and genetic influences.


Julian Cribb – ACNEM 2016

“If we do not have a ‘Right Not to Be Poisoned’, there will probably never again be a day when we are not.” – Julian Cribb Poisoned Planet 2014.

Brilliant presentation on the toxins in our environment. Most people have little notion of the contaminant spread and the impact on our bodies and minds, and the risks posed to human life now and for centuries to come. In our modern society we need to take responsibility, we alone have the power to correct, to take action and demand a new human right to eliminate toxins from the food chain.


Emeritus Prof Mark Wahlqvist AO – ACNEM 2016

“To know where we come from is to know who we are and where we may go. We are ecological creatures.” Fantastic presentation by Emeritus Prof Mark Wahlqvist AO on “Health Care Systems for Ecological Creatures: the need to know who we are” ACNEM 2016. Food is an indicator of our ecological status and the eco-vulnerable are those who as most disconnected from their ecosystem. The rapid loss of our ecosystem is contributing to our health. The wholefoods system is being transferred by each generation to a people-less food system. We are losing our food biodiversity. We are missing our ecosystem with Nature Deficit disorder. We are ecosystem dependent creatures.


Nicole Bijlsma – ACNEM 2016

Every 60 seconds 20 chemicals are registered on the Chemical Abstract Service Registry. That’s over 200,000 chemicals a week – Nicole Bijlsma – Environmental chemicals in the built environment: sources, health effects and avoidance strategies ACNEM 2016.

It takes years and generations to prove if these chemicals are safe or hazardous. Being evidence based is keeping us in the dark ages, when is sufficient evidence to act? The burden of proof is not on industry to prove safety of these chemicals. It is up to us as citizens to get involved to assess our chemical load. There are many ways we can reduce our toxic load including changing the food we eat, changing the personal care products we use and changing the way we clean our homes.


Prof Susan Prescott – ACNEM 2016

“To change the world, you have to change the menu first” – Prof Susan Prescott.

Fantastic presentation on Early life solutions to the Modern Health Crisis. Our early environment influences our development and function. Bacteria are our foundation of life and as we have co-evolved with microbes they influence our physiology and behaviour. We don’t yet understand the effect on biology of food and we don’t even know what bacteria we have lost. Our disconnect from nature is another factor in our dysbiotic drift. The health of tomorrow will depend on what we do today. Everyone can make a difference by the choices we make!


Launch of the ACNEM Primary Care Curriculum

“As a nation we must do more”. The Federal Health Minister, The Hon Sussan Ley MP launched the ACNEM Primary Care Curriculum at the ACNEM Nutrition in Medicine conference. The greatest epidemic of all time is chronic disease. Changing our eating habits and emphasising the nutrition role in medicine is important in the prevention of disease and promotion of a healthy lifestyle, and as is providing doctors with this knowledge.

Nutrition and our environment play such an important role in our health, and after attending the ACNEM conference it certainly has made me think more about what is in my food and the toxins around my home. For anyone who is concerned about the foods they consume or may have any kind of health concerns a must watch is the upcoming What’s With Wheat Documentary.

This documentary investigates

  • what has changed in our wheat that is now causing a huge increase in cealiac and non-cealiac gluten sensitivity.
  • how modern agriculture has affected our wheat crops.
  • why we as a society are getting sicker and sicker, including a rise in autoimmune diseases.
  • what we can do to make change to not only improve our own health but the health of our children and future generations.

You don’t want to miss the FREE screening of What’s With Wheat Documentary available in June 2016.

What's With Wheat Documentary - opt-in page

Egg Hunt

Easter has been and gone but I’m still on a egg hunt. Searching for free range eggs that are actually free range on the Choice Australia boycott bad eggs. I thought I was making a good choice buying these Aldi free range eggs. Think again!

2016-03-31 20.49.00

Aldi free range eggs

Recently the consumer affairs ministers have voted about the misleading free-range egg labels. ‘Free-range’ can mean eggs produced by hens stocked at up to 10,000 birds per hectare and there’s no requirement for to chickens to actually go outside.

CHOICE as well myself believe we as consumers have the right to know if the eggs we buy are actual free range of 1,500 bird per hectare as per CSIRO standard.

Most major producers of eggs labelled ‘free-range’ stock at 10,000 hens per hectare. Brands with this stocking density include:

  • Aldi (Lodge Farm Free Range Eggs)
  • Coles Free Range
  • Ecoeggs
  • Farm Pride Free Range
  • Pace Farm Free Range
  • Woolworths Free Range

See here for a full list or download the app CluckAR.

Searching from store to store with the list in hand I shopped around finding mostly bad eggs. Until I found these Southern Highland Organics eggs at Mrs Watson’s Cronulla for $8.95 a dozen. Not only are they Australian Organic, they are 800 chickens per hectare. I have heard these eggs can also be found at Woolworths.


Southern Highland Organics

Not putting all my eggs in one basket, I got in contact with Farmer Luke from Tathra Place in Gymea Bay. It was such a a nice surprise picking up our first monthly order to find chicks in the garage. Love that the chickens are ethically raised pasture fed with no chemicals, no hormones, no antibiotics and no gmos. Tathra Place have a regular egg order list so no chance of missing out on the golden eggs. You can also pick up a carton at Pryde Meats Miranda. Support locals raising and supplying food the way it should be!

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Little Tathra Place chicks!

My friend Stuart also let us know that there is a local farmer at Illawong selling free range eggs at their road stall. I must check this out as $5 a dozen it is a bargain!

Show your support for a boycott of the big producers who sell free range eggs from chickens kept in conditions that don’t meet the CSIRO’s Model Code. Do you give a cluck? Which free range eggs do you buy? Where to do buy your eggs from?


Changing Habits



I have not done enough for this blog.

I do not have enough time for a blog.

I am not enough to be writing a blog.

In a time when it is all too much, when I have had enough, I reflect on the words of my beautiful girlfriend Christin:

You do enough.

You are enough.

You have enough.

And breath deeply.

Repeat 3 times.

– Wandress Life

I have spent the past 2 weekends away pursuing what I love in self-care and nutrition. Being surrounded in the loving and supportive company of like-minded people gave me an opportunity to reflect.

At the recent Twenty8 HLE Graduation weekend I was asked to recall my experience of being a HLE student only 6 months before hand and share with the current students where I am up to as graduate and what I want to do from here. I had some big personalities in my HLE intake group, even celebrities in my eyes, and in my mind I did not feel I was enough compared to them. I could not do what they are doing in getting the message out there. What I have come to realise is that I don’t have to be like them, I don’t have to do it all in a short amount of time. I have to be me, believe in me, and be me in my own time. This is my journey, no one elses; you cannot compare someone’s chapter 1 with another persons chapter 20. I am beginning to see in myself what others see in me, and this is a big aha moment for me!

My girlfriend Hen recently posted:

No one else has the same beliefs, knowledge or experience. No one knows exactly what’s going on in your universe. No one can possibly have your perspective.

– My Innate Vitality

At the recent Changing Habits Graduation weekend people I was meeting new people who did not know that was going on for me and the darkness that I have pulled myself out of; I came to realise that not everyone needs to know. All people need to know is that I do have a different perspective, no one else has the same experiences as me, no one else has the same learnings as me, and if I share this perspective with others it may resonate with them for them to what to find out more and create the ripple effect of change just from me being the example.

I am enough!

I have been doing a lot the past months raising a family, working, and completing 3 courses in 2015.

This blog is just over 12 months old; good things take time to grow.

My story needs to be shared with the world.

“You never get over it, but you do get on with it”

– Carren Smith

So let’s get on with it!



Recently I attended my son’s annual childhood clinic check up. In Australia, these are appointments with a health professional to check on the growth and development of your child and to work together to achieve the best health outcomes for your child.

While these annual check ups are focused on the child, they in my view are not in the best interest of the parent, particularly a mother with previous mental health issues. My experiences of these check up visits to date have been anxiety provoking, making you as the mother second guess the choices you have made and actions you have taken as the parent in the best interest of your child, with the health professional making you feel as if you have made the wrong decision. I had been assuming that as my son got older, my anxiety levels around these check ups would lessen; how wrong I was.

My anxiety with these check ups started just after my son was born and we were arranging the post birth home visit with the childhood clinic nurses, which is standard procedure. As I was starting to spiral into postpartum psychosis and we didn’t know it, I was misunderstanding the screening questions I was being asked prior to the home visit. This resulted in myself becoming delusional and confused around being asked if there was knives or guns present in the house (knives yes as husband is a chef; guns no) and thinking that my son was going to be taken away from me, which is a fear that causes women with postpartum psychosis to conceal their illness (McGrath et al 2013). In between the time making the appointment and the actual appointment I descended into psychosis and therefore was not actually present for the home visit as I was in hospital.

The subsequent appointments every 3 months for the first year I used to dread going, over-thinking what they were going to ask and over-analysing what was discussed at these appointments. I see these check ups as opportunities to ask questions about my child’s development and raise any concerns I may have as a parent to see if these are valid in the eyes of a health professional. All this results in is me questioning my ability as a parent, like the time I questioned about how structured in routines my son was at the time and I was presented with the option of doing a behaviour screening questionnaire.

At the recent check up I raised some concerns I had around my son and toilet training. We had started toilet training just after Christmas this year however my son was still struggling with a few aspects. Only in the week of the appointment did my son turn a huge corner and it all came together with toileting. However, I still raised my concerns with his progress to get the health professionals view on the situation, only to be told  that my son was ‘manipulating’ us as parents and that he is capable, but we as parents were not using effective reinforcement like reward charts, recommending a parenting program to us. The mother lioness came out in my and I spoke my thoughts to the nurse, informing her it was a cognitive development stage and timing issue, not a case of manipulation based on my background education in psychology and previous work experience in said parenting programs. Why do I feel like I have to go into battlefield with the health professionals using my education as armour against them, and if I am having this experience in defending my parenting skills with the level of education I have, how do other parents manage this?

Another concern I raised with the nurse at the recent check up was my son’s language development. As he has only just turned 3 I am not overly concerned with his speech, knowing from my uni studies that the syllables he is struggling with are the one that develop later. The response I was given to my concern was ‘Do you have private health insurance?’. A beg your pardon? The standard response is that they refer all children to a private speech pathologist as the public wait list is so long, and early intervention is key. Well, that is one sure way to induce a panic attack in a mother who simply raised a slight concern. The nurse hardly even listened to my son speak and proceeded to push the speech path response; so much for a health professional opinion.

My son attends family day care and is in the presence of other adults who have not raised any concerns with his development. I was quite rattled after this annual check up and it took a few days for my to bring my anxiety levels back down and under control. As a mother, I see the health professional as someone to guide parents on their development of their child, not to destroy the parents confidence.

The one thing that most gripes me about these annual child check ups with a health professional is that it is all child-focused. In a recent study by Megnin-Viggars et al (2015) several key themes were noted in the experience of care with perinatal mental health issues including this focus on children over mums, health professionals either being unable or unwilling to address mental health issues in women,  the need for support as well as the need for integrated care. In all the check ups I have done for my son, only one nurse has asked how I am going and if she can do a routine Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) on me. In this case, I actually had to prompt the nurse to read the file in front of her and say that should be a routine procedure for mothers with postpartum mood disorders. The nurse had a look of surprise when she took the time to read my file! One of the stages of recovery from postpartum psychosis is the tendency to conceal the illness, particularly from professionals (McGrath et al 2013). If the health professionals were more encouraging in women being open about their experiences, this would facilitate women to seek support and aid the recovery process (McGrath el al 2013).

For women who have experienced postpartum psychosis the support of health professionals, along with support from family and friends, is the second most important factor in recovery, with the women’s own determination being the most important (Engqvist & Nilsson 2014). To have hope and faith that you will get through, to have support that you will be ok is crucial for someone who has been experienced mental illness and forming a holistic perspective with professionals can be an effective approach for recovery (Engqvist & Nilsson 2014).  So for me not having the support I am looking for from a health professional is a hindrance to the recovery process. Why can’t the childhood clinic collaborate with other health professionals in the care of women with postpartum psychosis, or even with postpartum mood disorders in general? Psalia et al (2014) notes this disjoint of care from maternity services to child and family health services showing that processes and communication were lacking, such as transfer of information being reliant on discharge summaries alone, to ensure this collaboration occurs. A suggestion from Psalia et al (2014) for families ‘at risk’, which I consider mental health to be in this category, is to have regular meetings between midwives and the child and family services, particularly to ensure the understanding of each of their roles in the care provision.

I really wanted support from a health professional as I was lacking the parenting confidence, particularly as I was a first time mum, and this seems to be similar to other mums seeking support (Miller et al 2014). It appears though even with dedicated Postnatal support service (UPNCS) put in place across public health services, receiving almost double the amount of contact than normal services, there was no association between UPNCS and parental confidence or perception of the sufficiency and quality of care received (Miller et al 2014). It was noted in this study that the type of contact provided, either by midwives or Child Health nurses who have different skill sets and care focus, that further research is needed to investigate if this plays a role in the association between support received and quality of postnatal care (Miller et al 2014). From my experience, I feel that this certainly does play a role in the postnatal care and support provided, especially women with a history of postpartum mental illness.

A downside to these childhood check ups and not being focused on the mother is that symptoms of depression can persist into the early years of childhood. Horwitz et al (2009) found that depressive symptoms persist in mothers who have children of pre-school age and the pattern varies across assessments with 27.2% reporting intermittent symptoms. Socioeconomic factors, like trouble paying the bills, as well as psychological characteristics, like conflict in the family home and levels of parenting stress, play a role in the level of depressive symptoms reported (Horwitz et al 2009). This can have an impact on the child as mothers who report elevated depression symptoms report lower for their child’s health (Horwitz et al 2009). So what is best for the child may be what is best for the mother, and what is best for the mother is a health professional checking in, perhaps doing a quick EPDS, and seeing how the women is coping as a mother of a toddler.

How have you found your experiences with the childhood check ups? Do you feel that they are too child-focused?


Enqvist and Nilsson (2014) The Recovery Process of Postpartum Psychosis from Both the Woman’s and Next of Kin’s Perspective – An Interview Study in Sweden.

Horwitz et al (2009) Persistence of Maternal Depressive Symptoms throughout the Early Years of Childhood

Megnin-Viggars et al (2015) Experience of care for mental health problems in the antenatal or postnatal period for women in the UK: a systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative research

McGrath et al. (2013) The process of recovery in women who experienced psychosis following childbirth

Miller et al (2014) A call for better care: the impact of postnatal contact services on women’s parenting confidence and experiences of postpartum care in Queensland, Australia

Psalia et al (2014) Smoothing out the transition of care between maternity and child and family health services

Missing in Action

Wow, the past few months have flown past and things have been pretty quiet here on the blog, but I can assure you it has been far from quiet for me. So much has been happening. Here is a snippet of the whirlwind:

May – The MINDD Forum and Day with Cyndi were action packed. As a family we enjoyed the Vivid Light Festival in town.

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Vivid at Customs House, Sydney

June – From the MINDD forum I was in a spin with some new found direction on healing my body, finding a new piece of the puzzle to work on. I found a couple of Integrative doctors and started working on improving my health in a new way. My mind was racing with the new knowledge and how it has impacted on my life, even since high school. What kept me grounded was my focus on Twenty8 HLE and my fortnightly webinars with my Sparklers.

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Double rainbow in June

July – End of July was a very eventful time with the graduation of Twenty8 HLE Program in Mooloolaba Queensland, I commenced the July Intake of Changing Habits Online Education Course plus I also commenced a TAFE course. I have a love of learning, a passion to expand myself and a tendency to keep myself busy. 

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With Kim Morrison at the Twenty8 HLE Graduation Dinner

August – I began to realise that I had a bit too much on my plate and the stress, anxiety and sleepless nights began to creep back into my life. Not good timing considering it was also the time of my son’s birthday and the time of year where I reflect on the journey I have been on with postpartum psychosis and bringing up a lot of emotions for me.

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My son’s birthday cake (sans lollies)

In the craziness of August I won tickets to the Wellness Summit in Melbourne! Wow, this was definitely an experience not to pass on, so my husband and I had a quick weekend away in Melbourne. It was amazing to be surrounded by almost 700 people who are wanting to be the change in their wellbeing.

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A multitude of speakers at the Wellness Summit, Melbourne

To top off August I did my first market stall at my local gym!

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My display of Twenty8 essential oils and skincare at Fitness First Sylvania

September – A hard slog of long nights and strung out days completing the TAFE course; I am so grateful it was only a 9 week course. TAFE consumed all my spare time meaning little time to share my story with you.

Well September is almost at an end and it is time for me to slow down a bit. My mind has been racing a lot trying to work out my health issues, wanting to do so much as a new graduate of Twenty8 HLE, as well as juggling the family, the household and work. My head hurts just looking at what I have been up to lately. So you may be wondering, how did I cope? How did I manage to take on all these bits and pieces?

To be honest I have struggled a lot in the past few months trying to keep it all together. I overstretched and overwhelmed myself attempting to do too many things all at once.  When I overstretch some things suffer; when I am overwhelmed I suffer. Unfortunately these tend to be things that are most important to me like my wellbeing and my relationships with those close to me. Thankfully the universe is looking out for me and has sent in supports to give me strength and keep me moving forward, with friends contacting me just when I need it most (Thanks Christin, Henry, Maria and Stuart!).

There have been two crucial things that have kept me from falling apart recently; self-care and simplicity.

Self-care – my daily rituals of self-care have been my anchor on days when things seem tough. My rituals have been my way of checking in with myself and showing myself some compassion, that I am doing enough, I am enough and I have enough. Twenty8 Peace and Meditation has been my go to a lot lately in my daily rituals as way to calm the chatter in my mind and ground me to the present moment.

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Peace and Meditation

Simplicity – I have simplified and slowed down my life in the past 3 years, resulting a simple rhythm I follow day to day. I have de-cluttered over time, reducing the amount of possessions I have to care for and clean. Each day I have one chore to achieve like Monday is the day I wash the towels, and if that is all I get done for the day, that’s ok. I have slowed down our schedule, not over committing ourselves on the weekends, which allows us opportunities to go with the flow like go on a bush walk to ground ourselves again and disconnect from the world. 

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Recent bushwalk to Karloo Pools

Have you had a lot on lately too? What way some of the ways you cope when you are overstretched and overwhelmed?


Changing Habits

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