Postnatal depression (PND) is a funny thing… well actually it’s not very funny at all… but, even though it affects so many men and women after the birth of their children it is hardly talked about and there is still so much stigma attached to it. I wanted to share my experience and thoughts to hopefully help other mums out there who may be suffering and to ultimately say ‘don’t worry‘, ‘it WILL be ok’, ‘there is NOTHING to feel ashamed of‘ and ‘your baby is in the right place being by your side‘.
What started my PND?
I think a lot of things actually caused my PND, but here are some of the main triggers:
- Rupert really struggled to latch on when breastfeeding and this caused him to lose about 14% of his birth weight when he was 1 week old – cue trip into A&E
- Rupert being unable to latch on properly at all regardless of how many times the midwives came round. I used to lie in bed after my naps dreading getting out of bed as I used to just hate that time feeding him as it was just so frustrating and painful
- I ended up having emergency surgery on my colon 3 weeks after he was born and I couldn’t have Rupert in hospital with me during that time; I couldn’t pick him up or breastfeed for weeks after
- Guilt that I ended up formula feeding Rupert
- I had an infection in my stitches from birth which was only picked up 8 weeks later as my midwives didn’t check me properly
- I had to have a colonoscopy (which failed) and then a CT scan of my colon which was not only excruciatingly painful but also massively degrading
Ultimately I felt that my body had completely let me down and I was failing as a mum for not even being able to feed my baby or to make him happy. I spent my days crying, feeling angry at myself and Rupert and feeling so lost and isolated. It makes me feel so so sad to look back on these first 8 months with Rupert and to think about how I felt about myself; I was lucky in a way as my PND was never about Rupert, always about myself.
I am now at a stage 9 months on from the birth where I can see the progress that I have made and here are some of the things that have really helped me so far:
Exercise: My first step forward
It was after the doctor told me I had a bad infection with my stitches which I knew, but my midwives failed to pick up, that a friend advised me to start to do something for myself each week. I had heard about the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guides and I decided that day that I would start them.
At this point I was struggling to get out of the house each day – so these guides gave me some structure in the day to at least achieve one thing. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to try and complete at least 1 thing a day, even if it is to have a shower or go for a walk. These things may seem small, but they will all start to re-build your confidence.
I have now been doing these guides for 32 weeks! Even on the weeks that I struggle to get myself together, these still give me a routine and something to achieve in the day.
Nourish your body
I don’t know about you, but I am an emotional eater… so literally the worst character trait for someone who has PND. Unfortunately for me, when I get stressed, I eat.. a lot of rubbish and unhealthy food!
When you are stressed out and emotional, it is your bodies way of crying out for attention. If you felt ill, you would wrap yourself up in a duvet and snuggle down until you felt better – do the same for your body when it is suffering from PND. Nourish your body, feed it well and often, give it the same amount of love that you need right now.
I love cooking and so I decided to look into creating healthier options for me and John to eat. Out went the packets of biscuits, crisps and chocolate and in came a truck load of bananas, dates, and vegetables; Deliciously Ella is an amazing recipe book to get if you want some easy healthy recipes to try. My body started to not feel as delicate as it did, I started to eat more and feel fuller for longer, and I still had treats, they were just made without refined sugar which helps with stopping those emotional crashes being worse because your blood sugar levels are more stable.
Going to the doctors
For me, the biggest worry was that someone was going to take Rupert away from me for being an un-fit mother, so I delayed going to see the doctor for a long, long time. I did find that they do tend to hand out anti-depressants like candy and will keep on upping the dose, but do say if they don’t seem to be working as there are so many different ones to try. After 6 months of being on Citralopram I felt that they were just not working anymore and so after a consultation with the peri-natal team at St George’s hospital I started on Venlafaxine.
Please don’t worry about being open and honest with your doctor or health visitor about your feelings, your baby is in the best place being with you, so they will go out of their way to help you.
Finding a counsellor
Finding a counsellor is a lot like finding a wedding dress – there are a lot of options out there, some may look amazing but ultimately disappoint you, but the best idea is to keep on looking until you find ‘The One’.
You do not have to settle with the first counsellor you see, make sure that you feel comfortable with them and they have the same approach to life as you as if you don’t gel it can make things a lot worse. After one unfortunate visit, my progress was set back to worse than it was before she entered my house which was very stressful for me, my husband and my family. My counsellor now is wonderful, we get on well, I feel very comfortable talking with her and I feel that she will be able to help me.
Telling people about your PND
Let me start by saying, you don’t have to tell anyone! But, on the other hand I don’t think that you can get better without at least telling your husband/partner or close family member and your doctor/health visitor how you are feeling as they should be trying to help and support you every day. Trust that they want to be able to help you.
Personally I found telling people that I have PND the most embarrassing thing to admit – I felt like everyone would start judging me and would then start to worry about Rupert. In fact, I only told my mum about it properly this week! But let me re-assure you, that it is NOT embarrassing, it is NOT something that you should feel worried about admitting and those who know, will surprise you with how much support they can give you if you let them.
My husband has been my lifeline through all of this, it is not an exaggeration to say that he has saved my life and I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for him. He has held me when I have cried and screamed at him, has made me meals when I couldn’t get out of bed, has been the most motivational person when I literally didn’t feel that I could try and breastfeed Rupert again, and has made me laugh on the days where I have felt like I couldn’t go on anymore. He is the most amazing man and I love him more everyday.
I am going to do some more posts on PND over the coming weeks – they won’t be frequent as I find it quite emotionally draining talking and thinking about it all, but I want to be as open and honest about my experiences as possible to try and help any of you who may be dealing with PND at the moment.