By Isobel Ellul
Around 10-15% of women become severely depressed after having a baby; around 80% of new mums experience mild hormone-related blues. And this is the difference: with the ‘Baby Blues’, symptoms begin shortly after childbirth, lasting a few weeks. The more concerning ‘Postnatal or Postpartum Depression’ is where symptom onset can occur any time during the first year after childbirth.
Let’s Talk Real (Instagram @letstalkrealgib) spoke to Natalia Ruiz Adnett (Instagram @talia9591) about her struggles with postnatal depression, who bravely shared her story. It all started with a difficult and long labour. Natalia remembers her blood markers being very low, not receiving the blood transfusion she needed and going home a day later, despite fatigue. She got on with settling at home, forcing herself to do the ‘mother’ thing and putting her tiredness down to the labour. A few days later she broke down with her mother and told her she didn’t want to hold her baby daughter. But she struggled along, not admitting to herself or her mother that she could be suffering psychologically, she was not feeling ‘normal’ or as she thought she should be feeling.
She felt very alone and unable to celebrate new motherhood.
It wasn’t until nearly a year later that Natalia finally opened up to her mother, saying that what she felt as a mother was not what she expected and that she needed help. She was able to cope with the day-to-day chores; her daughter was a very good baby. But Natalia didn’t feel herself. She felt very alone and unable to celebrate new motherhood. Her mood changed from happy to sad frequently and the smallest things would bother her, as if nobody understood her.
Natalia puts the development of her postnatal depression down to not having recognised and accepted it earlier, which could have mitigated some of the symptoms. She felt she was going deeper and deeper into a dark hole, not knowing what to do to make it better. A GHA psychologist was able to help her with talking therapy and mindfulness; she did not want medication. This changed how Natalia thought, allowing her to accept her here and now, living in the moment.
This obviously affected her husband and those she loved. Natalia did not let him in nor was able to actually explain what she was going through. She felt no one would understand, had to be a brave mother, so she would have her secret crying sessions on her own in the bathroom. That was her way of coping with it all; breaking down privately and then picking herself up to keep going as if nothing was happening to her. This took its toll until one day she had a complete breakdown and her husband was made aware that she did not feel well.
But once recovered, this gave Natalia the strength to speak to other new mothers and support them where she could. The idea that you have to fulfil an expectation of what motherhood is, or fit into a prescribed ‘box’, is unrealistic. Nothing prepares you for motherhood. The important message Natalia shares is to be wise to how you feel and to get help early on, the moment you do not feel yourself. Natalia feels that her delay in seeking help contributed to her full blown depression and anxiety. It’s OK not to be OK and many of us will suffer depression at some point in our lives, but seek help if you are not coping.
Midwifery and gynaecology team support, early intervention, support groups of other mums who went through the same. Thankfully there is more awareness about postnatal depression, however, it still remains a taboo subject and it is so important to not feel ashamed and to seek help. Do not suffer in silence.
Postnatal/Postpartum Depression Symptoms:
• Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
• Ongoing feelings of guilt, inadequacy, hopelessness
• Mood primarily unhappy, angry or irritable
• Struggles to care for self or infant/family
• Intrusive/scary thoughts
Baby Blues Symptoms:
• Occasional mood swings – happiness, sadness, frustration, anxiousness, weepiness; but predominantly happy
• Tends to lift once your pregnancy hormones settle to normal levels