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It’s something that every expectant mum is aware of, but very rarely believe will happen to them once their baby is born. However, finding yourself coping with postnatal depression can be more common than you think! The fourth trimester is hard enough as it is and it’s important to recognise the difference between the usual baby blues and possible postnatal depression.
This week I’ve been joined by my friend Emma. Emma talks very openly about her experience with postnatal depression and discusses her she found a way of coping with postnatal depression, especially during a pandemic! Thank you so much for talking to me Emma. I hope the following article helps any mums in a similar situation…
A bit about Emma..
Emma, a mum to two beautiful boys started her Instagram account in May 2020 as a platform to talk about suffering with postnatal depression after having her second son. Since May, Emma has returned to work following the end of her maternity leave and has faced many obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emma has been very open about her Postnatal Depression online and I reached out to her to ask if she would be happy to talk to me about her experiences as I believe her story could help many new mums reach out for help or feel safe in the knowledge that they are not alone.
What is postnatal depression?
So, let’s talk about postnatal depression (PND). PND is a type of depression that many mothers can experience after having their baby. It’s a very common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth (Stats taken from the NHS website).
Every mum will experience what is often called the “baby blues”, which is the period of time after giving birth where you feel exhausted, a bit down, tearful or anxious and this is completely normal and expected. But what the NHS state is that if these symptoms continue for longer, you need to seek advice as soon as you can.
Here is a list of symptoms to look out for on their website;
- A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
- Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- Trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from contact with other people
- Problems concentrating and making decisions
- Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
These symptoms can develop gradually, so many women do not realise that they may have postnatal depression. If you feel that you have any of these symptoms then please reach out to your designated Health Visitor for advice. They will have asked you on their first few visits how you are feeling, but if you find it is months and months down the line, call them and explain how you are feeling. They are very supportive and should guide you on the right path for support.
‘Coping with Postnatal Depression’ with Emma
I had the pleasure of chatting to Emma about her experiences and I really hope the following Q & A helps new mums in understanding what to look for, who to contact and also know that there is help out there and an end in sight. Please read and get in touch if there are any questions you would like to ask Emma or myself directly as we’ll be happy to help as much as we can.
Thanks again for helping me in understanding PND more and letting me get the message out there that other mums are not alone and that it is perfectly ok to seek help.
1. How long after having your son did you start showing signs of PND and did you know it was PND?
So I started showing signs straight after having him, which I can easily notice now but at first I thought it was just the baby blues. I remember going to the midwife and crying my eyes out saying how hard it is having two children and how tired I was. I was crying so much at the time. It was all a fog and I couldn’t work out whether I was just tired, emotional from having a baby or if it was the baby blues.
2. What were your symptoms?
I cried a lot and I was really tired. I wasn’t sure if it was just from sleepless nights with my baby. I would cry all day, everyday. I shrugged it off for quite a while. I wasn’t sleeping well even when I had finished feeding the baby and I also felt nauseous, with an upset tummy all the time.
3. Who did you speak to first? A family member or the Health Visitor?
I spoke to my husband and friends at first. But like me, they had no idea what to suggest or say so they just kept telling me to carry on and that it was just the baby blues.
4. What support was given to you?
I went back and forth to the doctors but nobody knew what was wrong.
As my symptoms were crying all day everyday, which then slowly shifted to just feeling sick all the time they decided to give me some special tablets to stop the nausea.
But it made no difference. Eventually I stopped breastfeeding, started taking the contraceptive pill and then stopped it; To make myself have a period in the hope that my hormones would settle and I’d feel better but again, it made no difference.
A few weeks after this time I went back again and finally, for the first time my Doctor said they thought I had some traits of postnatal depression and that I should talk to a well being team and asked me to consider taking antidepressants. But I said “No”. This was around April 2020, I’d had Thomas the August 2019 and carried on like this all throughout that time.
By the beginning of May, I decided it was time. On this particular day I had been crying all day and my little boy who was 4 years old turned to me and said “mummy don’t be sad don’t cry” and that was it.
I never wanted to kill myself but I was so angry and upset that this had happened to me. I felt so upset that it had robbed me of my time to enjoy Thomas, it made me feel like I had got this from having Thomas. I felt so guilty and that this all might have affected him in some way.
I always felt as though my husband and children deserved so much better than having a mum like me.
5. What medication did they put you on?
I was prescribed Setraline (50mg)
6. How long were you on medication for and is there a time frame for how long you will need to be on them?
I finally started taking setraline in May 2020 and stopped at the beginning of March/end of February.
7. Was any non-medicational support provided? I.e; recommendations of physical activities, counselling, yoga, mindfulness or hypnotherapy? Did they help with coping with postnatal depression?
The support where I live is just ridiculous. There is hardly any support here at all and if I talked to people about postnatal depression nobody knew what to say.
The only support and advice I was given was to self refer myself to Well Being (A counselling charity). I then waited until they contacted me, but of course as this was at a time where we were going into a pandemic everything took longer than it should have.
At first they offered me a worry course. Writing down my worries and what were hypothetical and what were real worries. This never worked for me, so next up was waiting for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which had a huge waiting list and I had to wait 6 months to receive. CBT is similar to regular therapy but more in depth.
Again, CBT during the pandemic meant that I received 4 phone calls, rather than face-to-face therapy and although it helped a bit, I found that being at home helped me recovery more.
8. How did you tell your family and friends? Were they able to understand your PND?
I think they already knew. My mum and mother in law struggled to understand because they’re old hat and in the era where you just carry on, no such thing as mental health etc. Friends were always there for me and supported me however I needed supporting at that time.
My husband was there for me the whole time too. I’d have times when he would be at work and I would call him crying my eyes out and he would come home to calm me down.
9. How has setting up your Instagram account helped towards your recovery of PND?
It’s helped me to be open and talk about my feelings and how I’m not alone and it’s okay sometimes to not be okay, and it’s okay to take antidepressants. Like A friend said “if I were sick you would go to the doctors and get antidepressants, why is your mental health any different?”.
10. If you could give a new mum, who may feel that they are showing signs of PND any advice what would it be?
Talk about it, talk about it to everyone and cry if you feel like crying. I felt like I would never see the end of the tunnel. But I did and so will you. Put yourself first, do what you have to do for you and your child or children and if you need antidepressants then take them, as you will soon be able to get off them.
11. What piece of advice would you give to anyone who has a loved one coping with postnatal depression at the moment? What should or shouldn’t they say?
Just be there. Just listen, even though they might not understand. Don’t say anything judgemental and go with them to get help if they ask.
Also, understand that it’s really difficult being a mum and the new mum may just be finding it all difficult and it may not be PND. They still have the feelings etc.
Seeking help and support for coping with postnatal depression
It’s important to seek help as soon as you start feeling any of the symptoms of depression as your symptoms could last months and get worse, which could then have an impact on you, your new baby and of course your family and friends.
With the right support PND can be supported correctly and mums can continue with their family life, healthy and happy.
You should contact your GP for help, but here are a list of charities and support agencies that provide a wealth of information for you to read, before making that appointment.
Here is a list of support charities available, should you wish to speak to a friendly and supportive specialist in the field:
- NHS urgent mental health helplines provide:
- 24-hour advice and support – for you, your child, your parent or someone you care for
- help to speak to a mental health professional
- an assessment to help decide on the best course of care
- The mental health charity, MIND provides useful resources and signposting for pre and postnatal mental health, local groups and they also have an online chatroom available.
- PANDAS provides telephone support, online information and local support groups for pregnancy and postnatal depression (see video that I have attached below also).
- Tommy’s is always a fantastic website for mums or expectant mums as they cover almost every question you may have. The website dedicates a whole section on PND and can give you some details of the support available for coping with postnatal depression.
- APNI (Association for Postnatal Illness) is a charity that helps all mothers who may be needing support before or after having their baby. There is a live chat option on their website also.
Books that may help..
- Postnatal Depression (The National Childbirth Trust) https://amzn.to/33SdaX8
- I’m Fine (and other lies) : Postnatal depression, motherhood, and trying to actually be fine https://amzn.to/3w6uxQ0
- Feelings After Birth: The NCT Book of Postnatal Depression https://amzn.to/3hxGdar
- Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts: A Healing Guide to the Secret Fears of New Mothers https://amzn.to/3olAS7P
The most important message here is; You are NOT alone!! There are many mums feeling the same way as you are and there is a huge network of support out there for you to access so please reach out and get the support and guidance you need to help you get back to your desired motherhood journey.
Thank you so much for reading,
The Swan Effect Mum xx