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Millions of individuals and families across Australia are being affected by bushfires. For those in communities directly affected, life will no doubt be incredibly stressful and traumatic. For those in cities and towns further away, but still impacted by smoke and the ongoing news about the fires, there may also be worry/anxiety and fear. Natural disasters and traumatic events have can have overwhelming and long-lasting impacts.
Expecting and new parents already dealing with the changes that come with the parenting journey may be feeling particularly affected. Those with newborns may be worried about the health of their little ones, and possibly even about what kind of future lies in store for their children. Those expecting a baby may have their own concerns at this time.
Australian health authorities, including the Acting Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Medical Officers, as well as peak bodies like RANZCOG (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) have identified the physical impact stating that prolonged exposure to bushfire smoke and poor air quality can have adverse pregnancy outcomes including increased rates of preterm birth, decreased birth weight, hypertensive disorder of pregnancy and gestational diabetes.
These risks are most significant for expecting mums directly exposed to poor air quality over an extended period of time, such as those in fire effected areas. However, for any expecting parent concerned about their own or their baby’s health, please listen to advice from health authorities, take precautions, limit outdoor activities and try to spend more time indoors.
For those expecting parents unable to avoid prolonged exposure to inhaled air pollution, masks may have a role. However as health authorities have stated, masks are not always the best solution. Again, if you are concerned, please seek advice.
PANDA CEO Julie Borninkhof states: “The team at PANDA truly feels for those who have lost so much during these tragic Australian bushfires. We are saddened by the loss of lives, homes and our precious flora and fauna. We are also proud of those fighting the fires on many fronts.” As a clinical psychologist Julie has provided direct counselling support to those affected by Black Saturday. “The grief and loss experienced by those affected both directly and indirectly will remain with the individual and their families for many years to come,” she says. “It will influence how people cope with new and existing stressors and we cannot underestimate the impact that this has on our daily lives.”
PANDA is here to support the mental wellbeing of expecting and new parents in all Australian communities at this incredibly stressful time. You can call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 from Monday to Friday, 9am - 7.30pm AEST/AEDT
If you need to talk to someone outside of PANDA’s operating hours, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Find more suggested services here: http://bit.ly/wheretogetsupport
If you’re looking for a way to help communities impacted by the fires, you can donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief here: http://bit.ly/37A0aoP