THE BLOG

Postnatal Depression and the Stigma That Won't Go Away

16/06/2016 16:54

Postnatal Depression (PND) has been, for me, one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to deal with: the struggle to talk to anyone about it who understood, the stigma which suggests that you are somehow completely incompetent and your baby isn't safe with you and getting out of bed in the morning when all you want to do is cry.

Postnatal depression affects 1 in 5 new mothers and is characterised by taking place either during pregnancy or up to 1 year after their child is born. That statistic is staggering isn't it, but that's not all! 7 in 10 downplay their symptoms and 1 in 10 dads also get postnatal depression; so why does talking about it seem so embarrassing and hard if there are just so many of us who feel the same way?

I started documenting my fitness and health journey on Instagram from about 8 weeks after my son was born and I have always maintained that I would speak honestly and openly about my PND throughout. It is amazing, and also simultaneously worrying, to see how many women message me daily to tell me that I'm so brave to speak out about it, how they feel the same and are struggling too but have no support either within their family, community or healthcare system.

From my own perspective the support I had from my health worker was terrible, the support from my midwives was actually one of the triggers for my postnatal depression and when I eventually went to the doctors they put me on anti-depressants so quickly that I'm not sure I even finished my sentence! Is this truly the reality of dealing with depression in new mothers? I even, hideously, got invited to a course called "Making the most of motherhood" to try and help deal with my postnatal depression - the title alone made me cry.

There are so many reasons for this uncomfortable feeling around talking about PND, the following are just a handful of examples:

• There is huge pressure from modern society to be a "supermum" and to bounce back from your pregnancy and labour within days without a single complaint or maternity pad in sight. I think this is often made worse from both the older generations who keep on saying "it wasn't like this in our day, we didn't have it so easy"... so unhelpful! But also the celebrities who snap back to shape and are out of their house within days in their pre-pregnancy jeans and glossy hair. This puts so much pressure on new mums who don't have an army of cooks, nannies and trainers to help them. How are we supposed to open up and say that we are struggling?

• I believe that there is worry from the mum herself that if we say we can't cope that we will be put on some list and our children will be taken away from us. This is a genuine fear that I had for months and months; even when I had gone to the doctor I felt that if I said too much they would take Rupert away from me. But this isn't the case in the majority of cases, your baby is in the best place with you and only if the baby were unsafe would this even be considered.

• If someone hasn't experienced depression before, PND is so difficult to comprehend. It isn't like you have a broken arm or leg to show to people, an internal battle is just that, internal and for this reason it is just so hard for people to get their head around. At some point most family and friends will either say or think: "ok, enough now, just get on with it" or something along the lines of "you are so blessed, you should just realise how lucky you are" and my all time favourite: "all mums feel like that"! Yes I know how lucky I am but this doesn't stop us hurting and quite frankly I really hope all mums don't feel like this.

I truly believe that we need to raise awareness of PND and that we need support organisations e.g. the NHS, to realise that there are so many other options than anti-depressants to help mums; take yoga, mindfulness and counselling for example. I genuinely believe that softer treatments not only allow for the mums to re-gain their own control over their lives rather than leaving it in the hands of doctors but these treatments are also much more available, flexible and accessible than the anti-depressants that are handed out like candy.

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