107 iconic cakes for perinatal mental health in Canberra

Christine Spicer checks out the Birthday Cake cookbook before the bake-off.
Christine Spicer checks out the Birthday Cake cookbook before the bake-off.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

In the months after the birth of her first child, the last thing Christine Spicer felt like was a glowing mum.

She was tired, rundown and sad, but she put her feelings down to being a single mother with a newborn.

"I think it was one of those things where at the time you keep going, and it's only when you look back on it later that you realise how tough it was, being a single parent," she said.

"All the signs did show that I had postnatal depression, it's just that it wasn't picked up until seven months after I had my daughter."

Feeling the combined pressure of parenthood and the stigma of mental illness, Ms Spicer felt she couldn't cope on her own but seeking and accepting help was the hardest part.

"The real struggle was finding a doctor that was supportive and starting on medication and therapy and getting through," she said.

"It's come and gone since then, and it's a battle that we always seem to be fighting to make sure that I'm well and I'm being the best mum I can be to my kids."

What happened to Christine is not as uncommon as some might think.

Perinatal depression – a term used to describe both antenatal and postnatal depression – is a quiet illness which affects a large amount of women and men.

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"It's that area while you're pregnant, or within the two years after pregnancy, and happens to about one in five mums and 10 per cent of dads, so it's actually quite common," Ms Spicer said.

Years later, after getting on the road to recovery and receiving the support she needed, Ms Spicer's struggle inspired her to get involved with local organisation Postnatal and Antenatal Depression Support and Information (PANDSI). She has since become PANDSI's president.

"It was really because when I had perinatal depression I didn't have the courage to go and get the help that I can see would have been so beneficial to me if I had gone through PANDSI," she said.

"My big driving force is to make sure other women don't go through what I went through, and that they do get the help and support that they need, when they need it…and PANDSI supports about 250 families a year who are experiencing these conditions."

In a bid to raise awareness of the issue, the organisation will next month host the PANDSI Cake-Off, a local fundraising event that involves the auction of 107 cakes from the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake cookbook, baked by local volunteers.

In a sign of the cookbook's huge following, the 107 slots were filled by Canberra home bakers in just 40 minutes.

The cakes will be available for purchase through silent auction, with 10 cakes by professional local bakers for sale by live auction.

"We want to reduce the stigma around perinatal mental illness and raise awareness, but of course, with awareness comes the need to fundraise," Ms Spicer said.

"We are supported through ACT Health but we know there's a higher demand for need than there is money to fund the service.

"It'll be things like an extra childcare worker in, running more dads' info sessions, and really expanding the services we already provide."

Donations can be made online to PANDSI's Go Fund Me page.

The cake-off will be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra from 2pm-4pm on Saturday, May 7.