This is a lot more common than many people think, because it is rarely talked about. So many of my friends have suffered from it and sometimes for no specific reason. I suffered from terribly from pregnancy depression and anxiety, and for me it was very much related to suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).
Pregnancy and postnatal depression are very personal to me having suffered from both on multiple occasions, as well as miscarriage, loss and termination which I have also suffered.
Psychotherapist Rivka Mennesson, who is running the postnatal depression and anxiety support group sessions with me, and I will hold these WEEKLY (currently alternating between Mondays and Fridays) starting at around 9.30 am. There is no commitment; you come when you can and/or want to. What we talk about is confidential and stays with those present only, there is no judgement, you can bring your child and you are free to just listen or talk. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PND, but you feel the need to be in a supportive environment, please come along.
Rivka and I want it to be a safe and supportive space where we can all be ourselves. Please send me an email if you would like to join us and I will give you more details.
I suffered from both pregnancy and postnatal depression with my first child, and looking back now I know there are many things I didn’t do when my daughter was very little because of that. Just getting myself dressed or out the door for a walk was a miracle in itself. I was very lucky in that it was spotted quite early on, and I got amazing help from my GP and my health visitor.
With my second child, I was also diagnosed with postnatal depression, however because of the amazing support I received during the pregnancy with my son at UCLH, and from my GP and health visitor afterwards, it was spotted early one. It also made a huge difference having had it before, I was able to know myself that it was happening again.
After I had my son I gradually got better, however when he was seven months old several things happened all at once and my PND returned and was much worse. This is how I described it in a newsletter:
I have postnatal depression (PND). I had it after having my daughter and I was very ill then. I got it after having my son who will be eight months old tomorrow. I have had therapy and I have been on anti-depressants since having my daughter in 2009. Every time I have been on the verge of stopping the anti-depressants, I have had a miscarriage or another pregnancy complication, and as such have stayed on them, including during my last pregnancy with my son which was another very complicated pregnancy and resulted in a traumatic birth.
After having my son, I knew PND was hitting again and I could take action immediately. I had lots of support during my pregnancy with him, so there was already a network around me consisting of health professionals who knew me well. It all slowly got under control and just before Christmas I felt quite good.
Exactly four weeks ago yesterday, just two days before we were going to have my son’s Christening, I got the phone call I had dreaded. It was the husband of a very close friend. To make a long story short; I made it to the hospital and within ten minutes of me arriving, my dear friend passed away right in front of me while I was holding her hand. I tried to somehow comfort her husband and her own mother who was saying goodbye to her only daughter. Suddenly, having got our wills finalised only months earlier made sense in a way I never thought I would experience at my age.
Less than two weeks later, her funeral was held and the following day we learned that my father-in-law had been rushed to hospital. He lives in New York City. Luckily, my husband was going there two days later anyway to look at nursing homes for my mother-in-law whose Alzheimer’s is rapidly deteriorating.
Adding getting next to no sleep while my husband was gone due to my little one’s teething, my daughter struggling with daddy being away and constantly talking about ‘it’s like he is dead’, a painful anniversary coming up which my daughter is aware of and keeps talking about too, I have hit the wall big time. The effects of having two children have also contributed to it. These are just some of the things I am battling with.
PND can manifest itself in all shapes and forms, and can hit much later than just after your baby was born. As in my case, you can have it, it can get better and then because of external things happening which you can’t control, it can return and come back even stronger. I have an extremely hands-on husband and a wonderful nanny. We have a good support network, but we don’t have any family nearby as neither of us are from the UK.
I am too exhausted to fall asleep and when I finally do, I have stressful vivid dreams and wake up drenched in sweat. When I wake up, I am more tired than when I went to bed. I get stressed out by the tiniest little things and have to really think about breathing slowly all the time. I have difficulty concentrating and my memory is terrible. I am naturally a very organised and tidy person, and I have to fight constantly to ‘just leave things’ and only do what is THE most important thing to get through the day. I have my coping mechanisms and right now I have to really focus on them. I know it can be quite hard to understand feelings like these unless you have been in a similar situation.
I am writing this because people don’t talk about it enough and I know there are so many mothers who suffer in silence. I desperately hope that if I can be honest, I can help those who are suffering and perhaps help others better understand PND too. A mother suffering from PND might not look sad or down at all. In fact, most look just like you and I, and there might be no way of knowing unless you know the person really well. Even then, sometimes it can be hard to know.
If you suffer, or worry this might be you, please ask for help immediately through your GP. There is also a local PND support group. Talk to trusted people as much as you can. I know how hard that can be, but believe me, the demons become so much stronger when they are left on their own inside your head.
If you have concerns about yourself, or worry about someone else, ask for help and/or talk to them (even if they might seem standoff-ish).
I have started training now and that has had a positive impact. My personal trainer Henlu is fantastic and I can’t recommend him enough! I am training with a friend and we split the cost. It is so much fun training with a friend.
On Saturday mornings, Henlu offers ladies only group training between 9-10 am, and for men only 10-11 am by the running tracks in Paddington Rec. In case of bad weather, they are by the band stand. My husband has started going to the men’s group and really enjoys it!
If you suffer from PND, please remember you are not alone, and it is nothing to be ashamed of (although most likely that is what you feel like at the time)! It is amazing just how many women suffer, but most don’t talk about it.
If I can give any advice: try not to be super woman. Whatever worry you have, it is better to talk about it than ignoring it. I know how hard it can be, but try if you can.
Its a brand new group for mothers suffering with Post Natal Depression. It operates on Abbey Road every Thursday from 1 pm. They have organised a few different speakers and support type activities.
Dealing with pregnancy after many miscarriages and suffering perinatal & postnatal depression
This is how I described what I went through in a newsletter.
I would like to share something that is quite personal. It is not to get pity. It is in the hope that my story can help some of you who are struggling right now.
Today is a very emotional day for me. Yesterday, my baby boy who is not really a baby anymore, turned 15 months. Today, I had my last session with the perinatal psychologist at UCLH, Claudia da Campos, with whom I have spent almost two years after starting to see her when I was 11 weeks pregnant with him.
When I went for my booking-in appointment with him at 10 weeks, I completely broke down. It was the first time I had been back in that part of the hospital since my previous pregnancy. That last time on 10 August 2012 in the middle of the London Olympics, we learned that the baby girl I was expecting wouldn’t survive outside the womb. It is something you never ever think you will go through. It simply doesn’t exist in your mind. But, there we were. And, what we had to go through was simply too horrible to put into words. It will never completely go away and it is in me forever. I have learned to live with the pain and loss.
We never thought we would have the guts to try again, but we decided over a year later that we would give it one try. A last try. I was supported by my amazing acupuncturist all along.
This was to be pregnancy number seven and it was to be my little boy who is now snoring away in his cot in the next room as I write this.
Going back into that part of the hospital where we had learned that horrible piece of news brought it all back again and more vividly than I had ever imagined it could. My midwife was simply amazing. Her name is Carol Pitterson. I will never forget her or her name. Not only did she refer me to the perinatal psychology team, but she also referred me to the fetal medicine unit where I was taken care of by the wonderful Dr Fred Ushakov. All of this without me asking. They helped carry me during this extremely difficult pregnancy. It was emotionally sometimes too much to cope with, but knowing I had my weekly session with Claudia was my lifeline as well as my many scans with Dr Fred.
The fact that I was suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) didn’t help and I had already been hospitalised, on a drip etc at 8 weeks. I was bed bound and couldn’t care for my daughter. My husband was a single father for most of my pregnancy with our son.
Once it became clear that everything was going well, I was terrified something would happen during labour. I couldn’t connect with the boy I was carrying because I was too terrified that I would lose him just like I had lost the little girl and the other babies.
Labour – on the due date just like his big sister five years earlier – was so unbelievably fast compared to the 26,5 hours in 2009. And then something did happen. I just couldn’t get him out. He was stuck. What had been very calm (and quick), became an emergency. I had no idea that he had been born, I didn’t hear him scream and I couldn’t hold him for about 20 minutes. We also didn’t know if he would be fine for 24 hours. It was extremely traumatic.
My therapist Claudia came to see us in hospital the following day and I saw her regularly again from when my son was a month old.
I had had a very traumatic and horrendous pregnancy with my daughter suffering from HG, hospitalisation etc with her too. I had also had perinatal depression and bad postnatal depression after having her.
With my son, I was lucky enough to realise that I was getting postnatal depression again, and because I already had the support from everyone, it didn’t get as bad as after having my daughter. But, the reason it didn’t get that bad was because I was able to recognise the early signs and ask for help.
For the past year, I have seen Claudia at first every two weeks and then once a month. It has been such an important part of my recovery, together with having a great GP and health visitor who have looked after me. I have also tried to take extreme care of myself to help myself recover.
The moral of the story is this: please speak with someone if you are worried. Even if you don’t think it is bad. If there is something nagging you (even if it might seem tiny and insignificant), speak up about it if you can. Don’t try to be superwoman, because it doesn’t work (at least not in the long run). Ask for help. We can’t do this alone.
There is NOTHING WRONG with asking for help! You are not a lesser person or less able to cope; rather the opposite. If you can, try to let people help you. Even if it is sending you off to have a nap while they look after your baby. I will always be grateful to my dear friend Becky for doing that for me.
There is support out there! Cocoon Family Support and Jessica Warne got in touch with me after I wrote a newsletter about this. Jessica offered to come around to see me. In the end, I didn’t need it, but perhaps because I knew she was there, it gave me a bit extra strength.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to tell your midwife, GP or anyone you are struggling. There is help available on the NHS (all of mine was on the NHS), but often you won’t get it unless you ask. Persevere if you have to! If you struggle to do it yourself, ask someone to champion for you.
I hope that for those of you who are struggling right now, you might feel less alone. I hope you feel there is hope after all, and that this might help give you the strength to ask for help. This is for you!
Karin x (founder of NW8-mums)