How to do you know if you’re suffering from postnatal depression? In our latest guest post from a member of Newport Parent Network, a new mum shares their story and tips on dealing with the illness.
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You can plan, plan, plan when it comes to having a baby but sometimes things will pop up out of the blue.
My baby blues
After giving birth to my beautiful baby I started to feel extremely tearful and was exhausted all the time. This hadn’t come as a huge surprise though, the birth of my little one had been quite traumatic. Having a baby is such a huge, life changing experience. You have to adjust to the lack of sleep and life with a newborn.
Am I experiencing PND?
A few weeks passed and my mood didn’t improve, it began to get worse. Getting up at 4am to feed, wash, dress my baby was fine but getting myself dressed and motivated became a massive battle.
My anxiety was completely out of control. I felt sick whenever anyone held my baby and would worry about every little thing that might affect her. I mean everything, at one point I even panicked about the world ending and what if there was a zombie apocalypse. It was completely irrational but I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her.
I struggled massively with my confidence, I had none. Trying to come to terms with how I looked now was proving to be impossible. I couldn’t look in the mirror. Every day and every night I would comfort eat. This made me feel worse about my changing body shape, I felt so out of control and I felt disgusting.
… what if there was a zombie apocalypse?
I suffered tremendous guilt. I didn’t want be a burden on my baby, partner, or health visitor, I just wanted my baby to have a happy, confident Mum. It felt like nothing I did for my little girl was good enough and she deserved better.
Despite having first and second hand experience with depression, at the time part of me didn’t think I actually had postnatal depression. I had formed such a strong bond with my baby and in the majority of stories I had read the Mums had struggled to form that attachment. I was so lost and confused, why did I feel like this?
While this all was brewing inside my head, on the outside I would try and act like I was coping and would force a smile whenever I could. I felt so trapped inside my own mind, a place so heavy and crowded with no room to breathe. I couldn’t find a way out.
Don’t give up
Talk to your doctor or health visitor.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
It came to a point where I just couldn’t cope with how I felt on my own. I needed to tell someone. I was so terrified of telling my health visitor and doctor in fear that they’d think I’m a bad parent and take my baby away. This couldn’t have been further from the truth!
In reality your health visitor/doctor will have experience with depression and when you start to open up you’ll realise you are absolutely not alone.
What to expect – Health Visitor
After telling my HV how I was feeling she did a home visit. This was so much more comfortable than I thought it would be. I was given a questionnaire to assess my mood and I had scored very high. My health visitor was very nice and despite having a high score made me feel like it wasn’t actually such a big deal.
I was referred to my doctor who discussed antidepressants with me, talked about my depression/anxiety and what I’d like to do next. He referred me for counselling (it was about a month or so before my initial assessment then it was a few months after that before I actually saw a counsellor despite being a ‘priority’) and booked an appointment for a fortnight.
It’s a huge relief after you tell someone. Yes, the depression is still there but now there’s a light. There are people who want to help you and genuinely care. It can help you normalise what you’re going through.
Going through the system can take a while and can be frustrating but don’t give up, keep trying and perhaps find something that will help you in the meantime, such as exercise classes, online forums, or support groups.
It will get better!
It’s not who you are, it’s not weakness, it’s an illness.
The next step is getting well again. It’s so important to take and celebrate the little wins, whether it’s going to a new group, going for a walk or even just getting up and dressed. These are actually very big wins!
There are many different things you can try. What works for one person might not for another.
Antidepressants can help ease the symptoms of postnatal depression. I’d advise reading online before going to the doctors as different types of medication have different effects and will help you and your doctor find the right one for you.
I was prescribed Sertraline as I was breastfeeding. It takes about a month to take effect and for the side effects to wear off. In my experience I felt very tired, sick and emotionless while on Sertraline. I took them at night so I wouldn’t feel the effects as much. My depression was more anxiety based so that’s something to consider when discussing with your doctor.
My doctor referred me to NHS counselling which was quite a few months before I actually met my counsellor, which when you’re suffering is much too long. You’re told at the start of your therapy you have 6 sessions.
It’s also worth looking for donation-based counselling, as private counselling can be really expensive, so this could be an affordable alternative.
Create a good support network:
I believe one of the most crucial part of recovering is creating a good support network. Even if it’s just one person you can speak to comfortably.
They’re a great way to find other people going through similar things to you. They can be a great place to find support and build great friendships as there’s understanding and no judgement.
Your health visitor should be able to find out what support groups are in your area.
I found it so hard to get out to groups and had no confidence in myself and my ability to make new friends. For me online forums like Netmums were a great way to talk to other people who too were struggling before having the confidence to go to baby groups.
- elefriends.org.uk – a forum on Mind that “is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. We all know what it’s like to struggle sometimes, but now there’s a safe place to listen, share and be heard.”
- Netmums Coffeehouse – “Support and advice for all aspects of prenatal and postnatal depression from mums who have been there.”
- Mumsnet’s antenatal and postnatal depression forums
Fresh air and Exercise:
No matter how bad I felt I would force myself to get out of the house at least once a day, even it’s just for a five minute walk. The longer I’d stay indoors the worse it became and getting out for fresh air was great to break up the day for both me and my little one.
I’m still battling with postnatal depression. There are days where I feel really low and I’m still trying to build my confidence but now I can see that it won’t last forever, its only temporary.
Two tips I found useful
1. Buy a flask mug (with a lid).
I found just having a nice warm drink relaxing. Having it in a mug gives you so much flexibility and time, plus you don’t have to keep reheating it.
2. Create a ‘play den’.
I did this by using cushion borders, which created a safe area that my little one can play with her toys and can’t escape. You can watch your baby but sit back for a few moments knowing they’re OK.
My final advice would be… If you have little snippets of feeling OK or motivated, seize them! Do something you love or want to do or something completely out of your comfort zone. It will empower you. You’ll meet inspirational people, you’ll find incredible experiences and you’ll begin to find you.
Want to find out about services available to you and your child in your area? Would you like to chat about family matters in general? Then get in touch with the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline.
- Phone: 0300 222 57 57
- Text: 07860 052 905
- Instant message (see top of page)
We are open 6pm – 10pm Monday to Thursday and 10am – 2pm Friday & Saturday.