First-time mother Danielle Collings is not afraid to share the challenges she has faced in her transition to motherhood.
"There have been so many tears- happy tears, confused tears, 'this is hard' tears," Collings said.
"Tears through fatigued eyes as I try to navigate this whole new territory with the shadow of sleep deprivation looming behind me."
Collings, who has lived in Doubtless Bay most of her life, said at times she had felt she was struggling with postnatal depression, especially in the early days.
"Now, I honestly feel it's actually part of the adjustment and should be considered 'normal' to struggle."
According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoa (PADA), of New Zealand's estimated 60,000 annual births, approximately 15,000 parents, both mothers and fathers - or 25 per cent - will experience anxiety or depression as a result.
Of Te Tai Tokerau's estimated 2000 annual births, 500 parents were affected by postnatal anxiety or depression.
PADA, which seeks to eliminate the stigma around perinatal mental health in Aotearoa New Zealand, has designated May 1-7 as Perinatal Mental Health Week, and runs fundraising events to create more awareness around the issue.
Collings said prior to having her son, she underestimated the challenges she would face and how much support she would realistically need.
She also described how motherhood had come with an interesting polarity.
"It's been everything," she said.
"I love the fact my son takes comfort in me, and I'm honoured to be his safe place, but sometimes I resent the fact it's at 4am and he only wants me and I've yet to have a wink of sleep.
"Some days are depleting and I can't wait for them to end.
"I'm overwhelmed by my endless list of responsibilities and just want to be in the moment with my son.
"Other days, I feel complete."
Far North midwife Shelley Tweedie said these feelings were extremely common amongst new mothers and fathers, with most focusing on the labour and birth, without considering or comprehending the rest of the process of becoming a parent.
"A lot of first-time mothers are often not prepared at all," Tweedie said.
Psychologist Christina Bond said challenges could often result from unrealistic expectations of the postpartum period.
"Knowing what you're in store for, managing expectations, and knowing what you're experiencing is normal can really help to prepare you and validate how you're feeling," Bond said.
She explained the transition to motherhood could be extremely overwhelming for a woman facing a large range of changes, all at once, while also sleep-deprived, emotionally and physically depleted, and learning to care for a newborn.
Bond said a focus on maternal mental health was important as the prevalence of perinatal distress was high.
"But just because you're really struggling doesn't mean you necessarily have a mental health condition like postpartum depression," Bond said.
"Perinatal distress and feeling low, challenged, anxious, guilty, frustrated and sad are common feelings for all mothers.
"This is preventable if only society and our culture had better resources for mums- women need permission to ask for and accept help."
PADA is part of a global campaign endeavouring to have the first Wednesday in May recognised by the United Nations as World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMHD).
According to its website, the multidisciplinary group of international maternal mental health activists, academics, clinicians and people with lived experience have come together annually since 2016 to raise awareness and demand maternal mental health services for all.
The WMMHD campaign states as many as one in five new mothers and one in 10 new dads experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder in many countries.
It also stated more than 75 per cent of women were not getting diagnosed and did not receive adequate treatment and support.
According to Ian McKenzie, Northland DHB Mental Health & Addiction Services general manager, the DHB currently supported 103 women within the maternal mental health service, with an annual budget of more than $1.4 million.
Midwife Tweedie said although some services focused specifically on mothers, a referral was often required for access.
This, in turn, required women to recognise the challenges they were experiencing as normal and to reach out for help without fear of stigma.
Tweedie said this could be very difficult for mothers in New Zealand due to our cultural approach to adversity.
"We as women try to, and do, cope amazingly well," Tweedie said.
"We don't like to talk ourselves up or down, we just like to get on with it.
"It's not in our culture to say we're struggling, or that we need help. We just harden up."
Sadly, the challenges have just been too overwhelming for some, with recently-released data from the Helen Clark Foundation showing suicide as the leading cause of deaths among pregnant women and new mums in New Zealand.
The report, Āhurutia Te Rito- It Takes a Village was published on April 30 and found wāhine Māori three times more likely to die from maternal suicide than non-Māori.
"This cannot go on [...] it is unacceptable," author of the report and deputy executive director of the Helen Clark Foundation, Holly Walker, said.
"Up to half of all birthing parents experience symptoms of perinatal distress and this has long-lasting consequences," Walker said.
The foundation is calling for urgent Government action to curb the sobering statistics.
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About maternal suicide in New Zealand:
• Every year about ten women die while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy. Of that, two or three are lost to suicide. Support groups say those figures are likely to be higher as women were taking their life well after six weeks.
• One in seven new mums suffers postnatal depression after giving birth. Māori and Pasifika are far less likely to report post-natal depression.
• The reported rate of maternal suicide in New Zealand is five times higher per capita than that of the UK, and Māori women are overrepresented.
• On average a child dies every five weeks as a result of violence in New Zealand.
Looking for support? It's available:
• Call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
• Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922
• Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757
• Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone)
• Lifeline 0800 543 35
• Samaritans – 0800 726 666