Bonding Before Birth

Wed Jun 14 2023 at 05:30 pm to 08:30 pm

The Braggs, G60 Braggs Lecture Theatre | Adelaide

Healthy Development Adelaide - HDA
Publisher/HostHealthy Development Adelaide - HDA
Bonding Before Birth
Please join us for the Healthy Development Adelaide (HDA) and Australian Association for Infant Mental Health SA branch (AAIMH) forum.
About this Event

As Infant Mental Health Awareness Week approaches (12-18 June) we focus on infant mental health as an often overlooked and misunderstood subject. This forum provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of babies’ mental health as well as some of the issues that affect it.

Why Bonding Before Birth?

Research shows that the experiences and relationships we have in the earliest years of our lives, including before birth, impact on the development of our brains. Stress and adversity experienced during pregnancy can have a negative impact on babies’ physical and mental health as they grow, but this doesn’t have to be the case. The services in place to support mothers, birthing people, partners and families in pregnancy can make a huge difference. Our hope is that this year's Infant Mental Health Awareness Week will increase awareness of the importance of bonding before birth, and build support for the services which we know can help.

Everyone is welcome to attend including the general community.


Valerie Aylesbury, Perinatal Infant Mental Health Clinician, Child and Family Health, Women’s and Children’s Health Network

AAIMH SA Branch - Benefits of Membership

Valerie Aylesbury is the current Treasurer for the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH) SA branch. Valerie is also a Registered Nurse and Midwife and holds a Graduate Diploma Health Counselling, Graduate Certificate Child Adolescent and Family Health, and Master Perinatal and Infant Mental Health.

Heather Warne, Mental Health Occupational Therapist and Psychotherapist, Private Practice

Who am I to you in your heart and mind?

Heather will present four vignettes which are hybrid stories based on clinical practice with infants and their parents. The stories speak to the lived experience of infants, parents and clinicians working to support early relationship.

Heather has worked as an infant mental health specialist with the Infant Therapeutic Reunification Service at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital from 2013 to 2020. The program was a joint initiative between Health and the Department of Child Protection, and provided assessment and therapeutic services for infants who had been harmed or were at risk of harm, and their parents. Heather now works in private practice. She is interested in storytelling as an agent of change and in the health and wellbeing benefits of creative and therapeutic writing.

Dr Ros Powrie, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Liaison Team, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Women’s and Children’s Health Network

Clinical issues for pregnant mothers who are challenged to "hold their infant in mind"

Dr Ros Powrie is a Perinatal, Infant and Child psychiatrist. The bulk of her clinical work has been with pregnant women and their partners. She has extensive training and teaching experience in PIMH and has collaborated with midwives to teach mindfulness based groups for pregnant women since 2010 and more recently with their partners at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She is a long time committee member of AAIMH SA Branch, past president and previous National Board Member.

Dr Anthia Rallis, Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Private Practice / Visiting Medical Specialist, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Women’s and Children’s Health Network

How does pregnancy itself affect bonding with your baby

Dr Anthia Rallis has a particular passion for, and focus on, holistic, individualised women-centred care. A great many women seek her out specifically for the warm, approachable and supportive demeanor she is renowned for, whilst backing up her clinical recommendations with the most contemporaneous evidence.

Amy Schwarz, Midwife, Women’s and Children’s Health Network / Community Midwife, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network

Issues that can impact our babies in our hearts and minds: working with vulnerable families

Amy Schwarz has been a midwife for 15 years and is currently working with the My Place Program within the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (WCHN), providing midwifery care, education and support to those who are pregnant and living in Care of the Chief Executive. Amy also works with the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) as a Community Midwife where she supports those who are pregnant and living with psychosocial complexities. She has recently won the SA Premier's Nursing and Midwifery Scholarship to head overseas to gain insight how midwives can provide best practice to those who have their baby removed at birth by statutory child protection agencies and reduce the impact of trauma. Amy has been awarded the Excellence in Practice – Registered Midwife at the 2023 South Australian Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards for SA Health.

Angkuna Connelly, Aboriginal Cultural Lead / Aboriginal Cultural Child and Family Support Consultant, Child and Family Health Service, Women’s and Children’s Health Network

Sit down and Yarn

Angkuna Connelly is a proud Anangu Pitjantjatjara woman and mother. She has over 25 years of experience supporting and representing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people/families. With a diverse experience with a background in education, community service, disability and mental health. Angkuna was a speaker at the 2019 Indigenous Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Conference, Darwin. Angkuna is a strong and passionate Aboriginal woman who speaks about the real issues that impact families and individuals while addressing, advocating for better health and access that provides culturally safe services to our families.

Dr Alyssa Sawyer, Senior Lecturer and Clinical Psychologist, School of Psychology, University of Adelaide and Vanessa Richardson, Clinical Services Manager, Child Protection Services, Women’s and Children’s Health Network

New Parents New Technology (NTNP)

The NTNP project is a pilot randomised controlled trial evaluating mentalization-based support utilising 4D ultrasounds and parent support delivered using “virtual home visits” during the perinatal period. The intervention focuses on: (i) support to bond with baby during pregnancy; (i) education about normal patterns of infant distress in the newborn period; (ii) how to best manage infant distress and parental frustration during periods of persistent infant distress. The trial is aimed at mothers experiencing mild to moderate psychosocial adversity who may be ineligible for additional support services. The study is funded by a Channel 7 Research Foundation Grant in collaboration with Child Protection Services and SA Medical Imaging at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Dr Alyssa Sawyer completed her PhD and clinical training at Flinders University in 2012, and subsequent postdoctoral training in Public Health at the University of Adelaide. She is experienced at working in partnership with staff in health and education services. Her research interests focus on children’s mental health and wellbeing with particular emphasis on the development, implementation and evaluation of new clinical and population level interventions in partnership with health services. Examples of projects completed to date include an innovative online support program (‘eMums’) for new mothers developed and evaluated in partnership with Child and Family Health Services in South Australia.

Vanessa Richardson is a clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience working in child protection, providing assessment, consultation and intervention services for children and families. As Clinical Services manager, Vanessa is responsible for the delivery of clinical care and services by the multidisciplinary CPS team. These include forensic and clinical assessments, parenting capacity assessments, a range of therapy services for children under the age of 18 years and collaboration with agencies such as DCP, SAPOL and Health to improve the safety and mental health of infants and children. Vanessa is an experienced clinical supervisor, trainer and expert witness.


A/Professor Zohra Lassi (HDA Co-Convenor), Robinson Research Institute and School of Public Health, University of Adelaide.

Zohra is a trained epidemiologist recognised internationally for her work identifying interventions for improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health and nutrition in disadvantaged settings by advancing knowledge in public health practice and translation into global health policies and guidelines.

Other event information:

Everyone is welcome to attend including the general community. There will be a panel discussion and time for questions from the audience after the presentations. We will conclude with networking and light refreshments from 7.30pm.


Event Venue & Nearby Stays

The Braggs, G60 Braggs Lecture Theatre, Victoria Drive, Adelaide, Australia


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