Cassidy Barlow and her daughter Laurelai in Brisbane
Since losing Delylah, Cassidy has become a mum to Kaidyn and Laurelai (pictured). Image by HANDOUT/CASSIDY BARLOW
  • health

New health service helps bereaved mums like Cassidy

Stephanie Gardiner June 15, 2024

Cassidy Barlow’s friends didn’t understand when she told them her daughter was born sleeping.

Health workers and relatives couldn’t always find the right words to comfort the 18-year-old after Delylah was stillborn at 24 weeks in 2020.

With the Queensland health system in lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Barlow was often alone without any visitors.

Then when she tried to access mental health support, she was turned away due to long waiting lists.

“Having a healthy baby is isolating on its own but having a baby where you don’t get to bring them home is even more isolating,” Ms Barlow told AAP. 

“No one knows what to do, no one knows what to say or how to comfort you and there isn’t always a lot of post-natal support.” 

Ms Barlow, who has gone on to have son Kaidyn and daughter Laurelai, is one of many women whose stories informed the launch of a new national perinatal psychology service.

The telehealth program run by social enterprise Rural Health Connect is funded by the federal government for four years to support rural, Indigenous, migrant and young women and families after infant loss.

Rural Health Connect founder Megan Gomez said the service aims to overcome common barriers to accessing care, like distance, social stigma, long waiting times and high costs.

“There is a really recognised need for change,” Ms Gomez told AAP.

“Negative experiences have been really common … you don’t have to go far to speak to someone who has had a really tough experience, particularly in the bush.”

The devastating effects of birth trauma and poor access to mental health services were the focus of a NSW inquiry, which attracted national and international attention during its year of hearings.

The inquiry heard of successful telehealth services treating postnatal depression and anxiety and recommended expanded mental health support for families affected by birth trauma.

“Telehealth has really changed everything for people living in the bush,” Ms Gomez said.

“Before, you had to drive to the practitioner you wanted to see and you didn’t have any choice in who you could see.

“Now, suddenly, you can access an expert in a particular field even if they live in another state.”

The platform’s psychologists have been given specialist training in perinatal support, including culturally-sensitive care.

Patients need to be referred by their GP and bulk billing or low gap fees are available for those in financial need.

Ms Barlow said she would have benefited from such a service after losing Delylah.

“Having that lived experience of Delylah and losing her … (I have) more compassion and empathy towards other families.

“I’m hoping that talking about my experience makes it that little tiny bit easier for anyone else going through that.”