Wednesday, 06 March 2019 15:02

Is motherhood always what it seems? by Anouk Carvill

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This article is very relevant in today’s news as last week was national mental health week. The increased awareness of mental health is good, but is it good enough? Have we broken the stigma yet?

Did you know that taking care of your physical health is just as important as taking care of your mental health?

Perinatal Mental Health problems are those which occur in pregnancy and in the following year of having a child. At a time everyone expects you to be happy; you may be feeling at your lowest, which is why so many women feel shame surrounding symptoms. Did you know suicide is the biggest cause of death for women during pregnancy and for the first year after birth?

A lot of people experience postnatal depression, which is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby.  It's a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth, (it can also affect partners and fathers).  Many women don’t even realise they have it as it can develop gradually. It is often referred to as ‘baby blues’ as it is so common for women to feel tearful and anxious in the first two weeks of having a baby. However, if your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth, leaving many women feeling confused, frightened and doubting their abilities of parenting.  An estimated 35,000 mothers in England and Wales suffer postnatal depression in silence and 49% of sufferers do not seek professional treatment!

I asked somebody I know, as they have been through postnatal depression following giving birth, how she felt at the time and how she overcame it. “At the time when I became a mum, I felt this expectation on me that giving birth was such a joyous event and that we did plan our son. Nobody had ever warned me or ever told me that it might not feel like that, I felt no instant bond with my son. I felt like I was in a black tunnel, I couldn’t see an end to it. My life was never going to be the same again or feel normal again. My family and support network at the children’s centre helped me to realise I was not myself. I didn’t think at the time I was unwell, however my husband and my mum and dad knew I wasn’t right. The support from the children centre reassured me that it was normal to feel like this, especially because it was coming from a professional person. Being a teacher I was so used to being in control, the first time ever I wasn’t in control was after having a baby. Coming back to work helped me, getting a little bit of my old life back, helped me to overcome it. And sleep – lots and lots of sleep. The more I spoke about it, the more people opened up to me and therefore I felt it was ok to feel like I did. I beat myself up with a lot of guilt; I punished myself for feeling like I didn’t want him. I probably didn’t enjoy him; I wished his first six months away. But I realised there was light at the end of the tunnel and the joy he has brought to our lives has outweighed what I felt like and I wouldn’t swap him for the world.

 I am writing this article to help raise awareness and make people feel that it is perfectly normal and common to feel this way during/after pregnancy. If you think you could be suffering with postnatal depression you should speak to your GP/health visitor immediately, most women make a full recovery with the right help. A range of treatments are available such as cognitive behavioural therapy, self-help and antidepressants.

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