National | Hapū (pregnant)

'If we deal with it now, it will stop'

Teenage pregnancy numbers have halved over the past decade but Māori still make up the majority of teenagers giving birth.

E Tipu E Rea, an Auckland-based teen parent service, says perinatal depression and suicide numbers show there's a need for support to counter the isolation and discrimination many of them face.

“They are our future," E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services chief executive Zoe Hawke says. "If we don't get it right for our tamariki for our māmā, for our pāpā, then the follow-on effects are going to be massive, and if we deal with it now, It will stop.”

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa conducted research that found 25% of women have postpartum depression during and after childbirth. Antenatal depression affected up to one in 10 women and one in every 20 men. Anxiety was estimated to be equally frequent, and many parents suffered from both anxiety and despair.

The research said it was normal to experience some worry and 'ups and downs' when expecting a child. However, some people had more severe anxiety or a lower mood (depression), which interfered with their everyday lives and functioning.

“We have people like Māmā and Pāpā actually disclosing how they're feeling in regards to their mental well-being. That is a regular recurrence, so I guess the facts at a high level speak the truth, and I think there's more in it as well.

Funding boost needed

"Some whānau do not talk about how they are feeling and are slipping through the gap. And I think we should, no matter where you are in the health or social service sector, or in our hapori, iwi or whānau be really aware of the serious kaupapa that we all should be pitching in to tautoko," Hawke said.

Among maternal deaths, over 57 percent are wahine māori. E Tipu E Rea supports more than 250 families a year, and one of its biggest challenges is financial support to serve these families, especially in such large numbers.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will deliver the Budget today, and Hawke says kaupapa like these need to get a boost in funding.

“There is unfortunately a waiting list at the moment, and we don't like waiting lists.  Māmā in particular are really struggling with their mental health. We don't want them on a waiting list; we want them with us now”