post natal depression

When I went along to my NCT classes I mindfully tuned-out to the sessions covering depression and c-sections.  Neither of these things were going to be relevant to me so I spent those classes looking at the other parents sitting in the circle wondering what their babies would look like.  Had I known more about the statistics surrounding both and the likelihood that it could affect me I may have tuned-in.

The following statistics have been taken from the findings of a survey conducted by the charity 4Children:

  • Approximately 33% of mothers who experienced depression symptoms during pregnancy went on to have PND.
  • Approximately 25% of mothers still suffered from PND up to a year after their child was born.
  • Approximately 58% of new mothers with PND did not seek medical help. This was often due to them not understanding the condition or fearing the consequences of reporting the problem.

These figures are frighteningly high; and yet we still seem to bottle up our experiences with shame when really we should be sharing and supporting each other with the knowledge and acceptance that it can happen to anyone.

Here’s my account.

Mother B

3 months into being a Mum.  I felt tired – exhausted actually; lost; scared; unconvinced that this was a role I could fulfil effectively; isolated; lonely; unprepared and…ashamed that I wasn’t the happiest person in the world for finally becoming a Mummy.

I had no one I felt I could talk to about it; and so with encouragement from my husband I booked an appointment with the local GP. When I sat down in front of her I was still not convinced that I needed to be there; but her first words: “why are you here?” prompted uncontrollable crying.

When I finally pulled myself together I remember saying that I was “finding things a little hard”. The GP asked a few more questions along the lines of: “do you have family and friends close by to help you?”: “do you think you could have post natal depression?”; and “do you feel suicidal?” all of which I answered no to and then started crying again.

The GP explained that it is not uncommon for new Mums to feel overwhelmed; and that post natal depression can creep up on anyone at any time. She suggested taking some anti-depressants and having a telephone discussion with a counsellor.

I was resistant to both suggestions but concluded that I had nothing to lose. I had two telephone-counselling sessions, which were pretty ineffective, possibly not helped by the fact that I had screaming babies on both occasions. I felt the Counsellor’s main objective was to ensure that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others; and so once I had confirmed that I was neither, we determined that further calls were unnecessary.

I took the pills for less than 6 months. I didn’t feel particularly impacted by them, and when I woke up one morning and decided I didn’t want to take them anymore, I just stopped. I didn’t discuss my intentions with the doctor, in fact I deliberately didn’t return to see her again. I just stopped – which by the way is generally frowned upon by medical professionals. I didn’t feel affected by the pills because they had effectively enveloped me in a thick wad of bubble wrap that not only prevented me from falling and hurting myself; but also stopped me from working up enough bounce to jump.

The pills undoubtedly helped me get through a rough patch. They afforded me the time and headspace to adjust to my new role. I could have explored other options: homeopathy; acupuncture; in-person counselling; asking friends for help and support…but I was so exhausted, frightened, overwhelmed and embarrassed that I was unable to even consider alternatives.