05:31pm Wednesday 29 January 2020

Support for new parents is just a click away


Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic

Covering topics from IVF and surrogacy to labour and birth to work-life balance in early parenthood, and illustrated by clips from interviews with parents from varied backgrounds and family types, the online resource aims to inform and support expecting and new parents.

The site has been developed by researchers from the School of Social Sciences (Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic, Kate Johnston-Ataata, Caroline Hart and Nicholas Hill) based on their ‘Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood in Australian Families’ project.

Leading researcher, Associate Professor Kokanovic said a key finding of the research underpinning the online resource was that lack of support was a common experience for new parents. 

“We found that many people, especially those who had moved away from family and friends or who had migrated to Australia felt they weren’t getting the support they needed,” Associate Professor Kokanovic said.

“Health statistics tells us that up to a third of women and men in Australia are thought to experience some level of emotional distress while expecting a baby or during early parenthood. 

“Many new parents feel isolated and their experiences of pregnancy and early parenthood were different from their expectations. Many described this as distressing, particularly around the degree of change in their lives, and the impact of parenthood on their relationships.”

The online resource was developed based on 45 video and audio-recorded narrative interviews conducted in Victoria and New South Wales. Associate Professor Kokanovic said despite considerable research on emotional distress during early parenthood, most of this did not consider the broader social context or the diverse family and parenting arrangements found in contemporary Australia.

“This innovative website features experiences of a diverse range of parents: single parents, parents in same-sex relationships, blended and step-families, families with adopted children, parents through surrogacy, and parents from different cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds,” Associate Professor Kokanovic said. 

The online resource provides information and video and audio clips of parents talking about their experiences of conceiving, IVF, miscarriage, surrogacy, adoption, pregnancy, labour and birth, life in early parenthood, antenatal and postnatal depression, the impact of becoming a parent on relationships, balancing parenthood with paid work, advice to expecting and new parents, and messages to health professionals. 

“Despite the challenges, most people we interviewed found the experience of becoming a parent rewarding. The research allowed us to better understand the emotional challenges most new parents, no matter what their situation, go through.”

The website on emotional experiences of early parenthood is the second such resource produced by the Health in Society Research Network (HisNet) led by Associate Professor Kokanovic. It follows another site created in 2011 exploring experiences of depression and recovery in Australia.

Funded by Healthdirect Australia, the leading Australian provider of online and telephone-based health information and advice, this project represents an important partnership between Monash University, Healthdirect Australia, and DIPEx Australia.

The online resource will feature on DIPEx Australia’s website and through this partnership will be used across Australia to support expecting and new parents and their family members and friends, educate health and allied health providers working with new parents, and inform policy development.

Monash University.

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