Natural disasters and perinatal mental health: what are the impacts on perinatal women and the service system?

Rochelle Helena Hine, Eleanor K.L. Mitchell, Lara Whitehead-Annett, Zoe Duncan, Adelle McArdle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Aim: The perinatal period is characterised by radical change across multiple domains. When it coincides with natural disasters, women and families need targeted support to mitigate the impacts on their birthing and early parenting experiences. Disaster planning in Australia has paid scant attention to the needs of this group. This study aimed to explore rural maternal and child health nurses’ perceptions of how women receiving postnatal care during times of disaster manage mental health and wellbeing issues. Subject and methods: Eight female maternal and child health nurses (MCHNs) were recruited through purposive sampling across two rural regions of Victoria, Australia. A qualitative design using an online survey followed by in-depth interviews, was underpinned by intersectional feminist theory. Thematic analysis was applied to qualitative data. Results: Three overarching themes: context of practice, impact of disasters on mothers, and impact of disasters on services were identified. Isolation for mothers was highlighted, necessitating increased provision of emotional support, at a time when service providers themselves were under strain. Conclusion: Natural disasters exacerbate stressors on perinatal rural women and can impede their access to formal and informal supports, jeopardizing mental health outcomes. Targeted investment in rural perinatal services to enable proactive planning and implementation of disaster strategies is urgently needed to reduce the impact of natural disasters on rural perinatal women and their families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805–812
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Disasters
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Perinatal
  • Rural

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