University of Technology Sydney

92358 Perinatal Mental Health

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject is based on a population health approach to enable mental health promotion activities. This includes the early recognition of protective and risk factors that impact on women and their families’ mental health during pregnancy and the first year after birth. Students explore best practice approaches for the management of perinatal mental health and illness. Importantly, students gain the skills to critically discuss community perceptions about perinatal mental health.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Discuss the relevance of a population health model (promotion, prevention, and early intervention) for perinatal mental health
B. Explore the pathophysiology of mental health, and the key variables that increase the risk of perinatal mental health illness
C. Develop a comprehensive care plan, including community resources, for mentally ill women to ensure maternal wellness
D. Critically explore and discuss depression and related mental illnesses during the perinatal period

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Practice woman-centred care (1.0)
  • Are professionally competent midwives who provide safe and effective midwifery care using intelligent kindness (2.0)
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and sound clinical judgment that is based on evidence and reflects appropriate reasoning within the relevant professional codes and guidelines (2.2)
  • Communicate effectively using spoken, written and non-verbal language across a range of contexts and to diverse audiences (2.3)
  • Demonstrate competence in all clinical skills at the level of a new graduate midwife and be eligible to apply to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia for registration as a midwife (2.5)
  • Participate effectively as a member of an interdisciplinary healthcare team (3.3)
  • Practise midwifery within a primary health care philosophy (5.1)
  • Communicate and provide effective care for women from diverse backgrounds and needs (5.4)

Teaching and learning strategies

In this subject, students participate in a range of teaching and learning strategies.

Students access online learning resources including evidence based websites, podcasts, videos, professional and grey literature prior to attending face-to-face sessions. These include the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) and beyondblue websites. Online resources are reviewed and discussed in class to share and receive feedback on learning, experiences and reflections.

This subject uses stories and scenarios to help students explore health and wellbeing-related scenarios. Cases depict women/consumers and their families experiencing challenges in relation to mental health especially depression and anxiety. Students use these scenarios to learn concepts, interpret information, support families and develop creative solutions. The subject takes a strengths-based approach with women experiencing perinatal mental health challenges. Students use empathy as they develop their critical thinking skills through analysis, interpretation of and reflection on issues or situations.

Face-to-face lectures are interactive, enabling students to receive feedback on their growing understanding of key subject concepts. Invited guests who are experts in the field share their experiences and expertise and invite discussion. Students are also introduced to skills in mindfulness and encouraged to start using these in their day to day life.

A significant portion of the face-to-face time in this subject involves collaborative group activities. Students are supported to engage in content prior to attending class, and class time focuses on group learning activities that support skills in how to apply learning in clinical practice. These collaborative learning activities build effective communication skills when working with sensitive issues through role play and peer feedback.

Guest lecturers provide students with personal and professional stories in relation to the subject content. Hearing stories from both a professional and personal perspective supports students to relate learning to real world situations.

Demonstrating information literacy and technology skills, students search and synthesise the professional literature to answer an essay question. Students comply with academic writing practices and use information ethically, legally and respectfully. Assessment plans are workshopped in class so that students may receive formative peer and tutor feedback. Feedback on assignments will be given from the subject coordinator/teaching staff within three weeks of submission.

Content (topics)

Mental health during the perinatal period – wellness and illness

  • Prevention and early intervention
  • Cultural understandings of mental illness
  • Concepts of resilience, risk and protective factors
  • The importance of continuity of care in addressing social and emotional wellbeing
  • Common challenges – depression and anxiety

Assessing the need for monitoring or further assessment

  • Psychosocial assessment (risk) and Edinburgh Depression Scale
  • Psychosocial support during the perinatal period
  • Why partners are important - the perinatal mental health of fathers/partners
  • Understanding of previous trauma experiences and the impact on women during pregnancy

Management of perinatal emotional distress/mental illness

  • Interventions for women and/or their partners at risk of depression, anxiety and related disorders
  • Interventions for parents experiencing a mental illness

Managing ‘at risk’ situations requiring immediate intervention

  • Assessment of ‘at risk’ situations for mother, child and others
  • Use of the NSW Mental Health Act and the guardianship regulations
  • Partnership with public and private mental health services including liaison psychiatry, acute community teams, case managers and private therapists to promote early intervention and ensure continuity of care

Strengthening the parent-infant relationship when a parent is mentally ill

  • Exploration of community resources

Communication skills

  • Active listening
  • Strengths-based approaches to working with women and families
  • Asking difficult questions and listening to difficult answers
  • Looking after yourself – being mindful and asking for support when needed


Assessment task 1: Referral flow chart


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):


This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

2.0, 2.2, 3.3, 5.1 and 5.4

Type: Design/drawing/plan/sketch
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 20%

Description: 300 words

Flow chart: one A4 page

Assessment task 2: Case study based Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B and C

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.3 and 5.4

Type: Laboratory/practical
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 50%

Assessment task 3: OSCE: Written progress notes


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, C and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

2.0, 2.2, 5.1 and 5.4

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 30%

300 words

Recommended texts

Recommended readings are available in UTSOnline from eReadings.


Austin, M-P., Highet, N. and the Expert Working Group (2017). Mental Health Care in the Perinatal Period: Australian Clinical Practice Guideline, Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE), Melbourne.

Beyondblue (2018). Working in Perinatal Mental Health, accessed 19 February 2019 from:

Byrom, S. and Downe, S. (eds.) (2015). The roar behind the silence: Why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care, Pinter and Martin, London.

Catling, C., Cummins, A. and Hogan, R. (2016). Stories in midwifery: reflection, inquiry, action, Elsevier, Sydney.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation, revised edition. Little Brown Book Group, London.

NSW Department of Health (2010). NSW Health/Families NSW Supporting Families Early Package. NSW Department of Health, Sydney.

Poole, N. & Greaves, L. (eds.) (2012). Becoming trauma informed. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health,Toronto.

NSW Department of Health (2019). Safe Start 2019, accessed 19 February 2019 from:

Simpson, M. & Catling, C. (2015). Understanding psychological traumatic birth experiences: A literature review. Women and Birth, 29(3), 203-207.

Other resources

UTS Student Centre
Building 10

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:

For other resources/ information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and Canvas at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve your academic and English language skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733.

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.

The Accessibility and Financial Assistance Service
The Accessibility Service can support students with disabilities, medical or mental health conditions, including temporary injuries (e.g., broken limbs). The Accessibility Service works with Academic Liaison Officers in each Faculty to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as exam provisions, assistive technology, requests and strategies for managing your studies alongside your health condition. If you’re unsure whether you need assistance, we recommend getting in touch early and we can provide advice on how our service can assist you. Make an appointment with an Accessibility Consultant (AC) on +61 2 9514 1177 or

The Financial Assistance Service can assist you with financial aspects of life at university, including Centrelink information, tax returns and budgeting, interest-free student loans and grants to assist with course-related costs. Check eligibility and apply online and make an appointment on +61 2 9514 1177 or