The pandemic has hit all parents hard.
For first-time parents, having a baby in the midst of lockdowns, away from their village and with few ways to connect to others, has been particularly challenging.
Perinatal anxiety and depression support organisation Gidget Foundation Australia has experienced a surge in demand for their services this year, as the extra stressors and isolation weigh on many parents' minds.
"We've seen a huge increase with the pandemic, we're lucky that we have the capacity to support people," said CEO Arabella Gibson.
From their own research on existing client-based network supporters, Gidget has reported an 81 per cent increase in the number of expectant and new parents experiencing increased perinatal anxiety and depression due to the pandemic.
"In addition to that there has been an average 68 per cent increase for the past year and in September that rose to an 86 per cent increase in terms of service delivery alone. We've had to employ a number of new clinicians," Gibson added
The foundation hopes their new digital platform, Gidget Perinatal Support Centre: Powered by Sonder, will help broaden their reach.
Launched this week to coincide with Perinatal Mental Health Week (November 8-14) the platform aims to connect new parents with immediate support via live chats with clinicians trained in mental health, as well as information on health and wellbeing. And unlike GP or other services, support is available 24/7.
"If it's the middle of the night and the baby isn't sleeping there's someone there who can support and help you and give you referral pathways. Because we know it's often 2am when things feel at their worst and most dire, so it's really comforting having someone there," Gibson said.
"Someone is always available for a chat and in certain circumstances we can have someone to people within 20 minutes, who are all mental health trained."
Many first time parents have missed out on traditional avenues for building their village, such as mother's groups. For many, the lack of empathy for sleepless nights and other parenting struggles has exacerbated the chasm between how they anticipated their life with a baby would be and their reality, Gibson added.
"Having a baby is an exciting and happy time, but it is also an incredibly challenging time and no more so than for this very vulnerable group of people who are feeling extra pressures from the pandemic," Gibson said.
The platform is currently being trailed in NSW, however the foundation hopes to later extend it nationwide.
They have also recently launched Gidget Virtual Village - private Facebook groups for both mums and dads to access a virtual 'safe space' to share their experiences.
This, Gibson said, had been particularly good for new dads.
"We know that one in 10 dads will experience perinatal depression and anxiety and 50 per cent of new parents suffer adjustment disorders," she explains.
"So it's for dads to talk about and share what they are feeling in a blokey way with other dads. Because talking helps people to feel so much better, to get their feelings off their chest and feel like they're being heard."
While conversations around perinatal mental health have been more constructive in recent years, Gibson says more awareness is still needed, stressing that if anyone recognised a loved one was struggling, they should open a dialogue.
"As a community we have a real responsibility in this, because quite often new mums and dad so exhausted and caught up in situations they can't see for themselves."
"We need to keep our eyes and ears open for people struggling who are not handling things as well as they'd hoped. To get them to a GP, so they can diagnose this illness."
Gidget offers 10 free sessions with a clinical psychological sessions in person or via Telehealth (with GP referral) and Gibson said with the right support and clinical interventions, it was a very treatable condition.
To download the app, search for 'Sonder' in the app store and enter the registration code 'Gidget'.