As the coronavirus pandemic continues, mothers-to-be and new parents are going online for a helping hand. A new app is also providing instant access to trusted evidence-based parenting education, advice and tools.
Mothers-to-be in Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo are part of a "really positive uptake" of online antenatal classes introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) moved to bring the free service into the home via phone or computer to ensure women did not miss out on the important education despite physical distancing restrictions.
WNSWLHD clinical midwifery consultant Tammy O'Connor said there had been a "really positive uptake" since its introduction in April.
About 40 participants had completed the four-week course in April, and May was already set to see about 80 participants, she reported.
"The response from women has seen the need to increase the number of classes run each month," Ms O'Connor said.
"This is seen as a really positive outcome for the LHD as we are enabling more women access to antenatal education, regardless of their location."
In the last quarter of 2019 there were 807 babies born across WNSWLHD, according to the Bureau of Health Information.
Among them were 111 births at Bathurst Health Service, 299 at Dubbo and 256 at Orange.
The data indicates there are likely to be hundreds of women facing the prospect of giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic in the three regional cities.
Ms O'Connor says pregnancy can be a time of uncertainty for some women and their partners as a number of changes are occurring both socially, physically and mentally.
"During the COVID pandemic women are asking questions regarding the safety and well-being of their baby in relation to the coronavirus," she said.
"If anyone has any concerns or questions, we encourage you to speak with your antenatal care provider."
During the COVID pandemic women are asking questions regarding the safety and well-being of their baby in relation to the coronavirus.Clinical midwifery consultant Tammy O'Connor
Despite the uncertain time, WNSWLHD's message to parents-to-be had not changed, the midwife said.
"The LHD wants to ensure all women have access to antenatal services and continue to be empowered through this time," Ms O'Connor said.
"The LHD values woman-centred care, which works to identify the individual needs of each woman throughout her pregnancy and enhance her journey."
The classes run on Wednesday nights on a four-week cycle until August 26. To book in contact Lucy Sissian on 6809 8607.
'Increased anxiety' grows demand for Tresillian support
"Overwhelmed" parents at Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst are turning to a support service in greater numbers amid the upheaval of coronavirus.
Tresillian reports calls to its statewide helpline have "more than doubled" in recent weeks compared to the same period last year.
The Tresillian in Western Family Care Centre at Dubbo reports the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant gathering restrictions have been difficult for parents.
Kate Plasto, acting nurse unit manager (NUM) of the centre that covers all of the Western NSW Local Health District, said coronavirus was having a number of effects.
"Certainly we're seeing increased anxiety in some new mums, or feelings of being overwhelmed, because the traditional support networks are just not possible at the moment, because of the social isolation, and the social distancing," she said.
"I've seen some new mums definitely who are finding it difficult because they can't access new parent groups, for that support, or even their close family members or grandparents, close friends, people they would normally access when they have a new baby.
Toddlers, they're not able to go to the park or get out and about and do any of the community activities they would normally do, so that can create a bit more stress in the home.Tresillian in Western Family Care Centre acting nurse unit manager Kate Plasto
"So that's been difficult for them.
"But also I've seen mums with toddlers and new babies and they're finding it hard as well because they're at home for long days.
"Toddlers, they're not able to go to the park or get out and about and do any of the community activities they would normally do, so that can create a bit more stress in the home."
Tresillian has been operating for a century and in partnership with Western NSW Local Health District opened the Dubbo centre almost 18 months ago.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, some families were travelling up to two hours or more to attend the centre.
It's made some changes in recent weeks to ensure it can continue to provide support.
Parents can now self-refer to the service, via the Tresillian helpline, rather than needing a referral from a health professional.
Tresillian has also switched the parenting groups it hosted at its Darling Street hub to a video conferencing model, to meet the gathering restriction requirements.
"We run a settling group once a month, so we're doing that virtually, we're doing Circle of Security virtually, and also another group called Getting to Know You," Mrs Plasto said.
"So that's a little bit different, but it provides a bit more support, and allows parents to access the service."
The nurturer of mums and dads said it was being well-received.
"Yes, we've still had quite a number signing up for the groups, which has been good," Mrs Plasto said.
"It's a little bit different doing it virtually, but the mums have been great."
The centre was still doing some individual face-to-face consultations, but also virtual consultations, Mrs Plasto said.
We're offering more virtual consultations, particularly those families who live out of town, because we service the Western LHD.Tresillian in Western Family Care Centre acting nurse unit manager Kate Plasto
"We're offering more virtual consultations, particularly those families who live out of town, because we service the Western LHD," she said.
"So we've seen an increase in our virtual consultations, but also we can do virtual consultations with families in Dubbo if they don't want to go out, we're happy to do that."
For mums and dads who chose to attend the centre, the service was screening for COVID-19 on arrival, and maintaining social distancing throughout appointments, the acting NUM said.
Mrs Plasto's message to parents was they were not alone, and she encouraged them to reach out.
"We like providing the service to local families and families within our LHD, but there is always the helpline as well, particularly on the weekend, or in the evening if parents are needing help," she said.
New parents to benefit from $1.44m for SleepWellBaby
An app to help families struggling to cope with the stresses of a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic is now available to new parents at Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo at no cost.
Minister for Mental Health and Women Bronnie Taylor recently announced a $1.44 million grant to fund free access to the SleepWellBaby app.
The app-based digital program was developed in consultation with Tresillian.
It delivers instant access to trusted evidence-based parenting education, advice and tools on key new parent concerns including baby sleep and settling, development, feeding and nutrition via a sophisticated digital platform.
The SleepWellBaby program also provides stepped care into specialist telehealth services offered by organisations such as Tresillian and Gidget Foundation Australia for those in need of support.
New mum Emily shared her experiences and recommended the app.
Edward was a much-wanted baby and parenting has been a joy, but incredibly hard at times.Emily, a new mother
"Edward was a much-wanted baby and parenting has been a joy, but incredibly hard at times," she said.
It was when he was five weeks old that Emily decided to download the app.
She said it had given structure to her day, helping her gain more confidence as a new mum. In particular, she's appreciated the ability to track Edward's sleep over the course of 24 hours and the app then works out if that's in the ballpark of what he should be having for his age.
"When I'm feeling tired and exhausted and Edward is not settling to sleep, I have a quick look at the app to check for tips and advice and it helps me feel much more on top of being a new mum," she said.