“Maybe I should be scared [of having PND again],” she told Marie Claire. “But I don’t know. It couldn’t be any worse than it was, could it?”
We spoke to Donna Collins, managing director of PANDAS Foundation and Dr Raja Gangopadhyay, a consultant obstetrician with a special interest in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) about how women facing this issue can cope.
“It is common. We hear from women experiencing this dilemma a lot,” Collins told HuffPost UK. “They’ve had PND, are scared about having a baby and they panic.”
If I’ve had postnatal depression before, will I definitely get it again?
The simple answer is no. Collins said there is a roughly one in two chance that you are likely to develop PND for a second time.
“But there is no hard and fast rule,” she said. “Even if you have had any mental health condition before, that’s not to say you will definitely experience it again.”
Dr Gangopadhyay said from his experience, PND is recurrent in about 25-50% of mums who have had it before.
However, this is a rough estimate, as he added: “Whether you’ll experience PND again depends on so many factors. For example, how severe the condition was, if the baby was not well or any other circumstances surrounding the birth.”
What should I do if I’m planning to fall pregnant again?
Dr Gangopadhyay said if women who have had PND are planning to have another child, they should take appropriate measures to reduce the risk of recurrence.
To do this, the first thing they should do is speak to their GP about planning to fall pregnant again.
“Your symptoms may be different the second time around,” he explained. “So it’s best to have medical advice as soon as possible.”
Explain to your GP what your symptoms were before, how you felt and what support you received at the time.
I’m still on medication for PND, should I stop taking it?
“When women are still on medication, they often worry about the harm to their baby,” explained Collins. “But more harm can be done by stopping medication.”
Dr Gangopadhyay said it is extremely important to consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication, even when you’re planning pregnancy.
“Women should let their GP or mental health team know they are planning to fall pregnant and review medications,” he said.
“The most important thing is that symptoms should be controlled and medication should only be stopped under supervision.
“Seven out of 10 mothers who stop their medication [while pregnant] have a recurrence of symptoms, which is why it’s advised not to stop taking it without medical advice.”
What should I do when I find out I’m pregnant?
Collins said women need to ensure they have a team in place around them for support.
She advised women not to wait for their first routine appointment with their midwife, but to book one in with their GP or midwife as soon as possible.
“Be honest and upfront about how you feel,” advised Collins. “If people are in possession of all the facts about how you’re feeling, then they can help you better.”
Talking about how you’re feeling to friends and family is just as important.
“It can be helpful to speak to your family members to express how you’re feeling,” added Dr Gangopadhyay.
“Even if your worries are just mild, they can be dealt with effectively just by talking to someone. Remember, it is okay not to be okay.”
What if I find it hard to talk about how I’m feeling?
Collins said many women will find it hard to put into words how they are feeling, or feel ashamed to talk about it.
“It’s very hard to bare your soul to people you don’t know very well,” she said.
“Take someone with you to an appointment who you can trust or, if you can’t say the words, write it down and give it to the healthcare professional.”
How else can I support myself during pregnancy?
Dr Gangopadhyay said self care is extremely important.
“Taking adequate rest and sleep is vital,” he said. “Sleep deprivation is a complicated factor of PND.
“Women need to make sure they have a good diet and exercise, as well as doing something that they enjoy doing, such as going out for a walk or having time to yourself. This is incredibly helpful during pregnancy.
“Women so often focus on how they are going to look after their child that sometimes they forget about themselves, but they need to look after themselves.”
Where can I go for support during this time?
PANDAS foundation have support groups, where you can attend for face-to-face support, or use their one-to-one email support.
They also have a network of peers who have experienced postnatal depression in a private group and are willing to support others when needed.
For more information and support:
Mind: A mental health charity there to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. Call: 0300 123 3393.
Pandas Foundation: Charity to support and advise any parent who is experiencing a perinatal mental illness. Call: 0843 28 98 401.
Mothers for Mothers: A postnatal depression support group with information and peer advice. Call: 0117 975 6006.
PNI: A website run by women who have suffered from postnatal illnesses to share personal experiences and offer support.