Postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety cannot only be frightening but is often difficult to understand on a personal level, why we feel these emotions when they do arise after having a child. Although the subject is no longer taboo, the subject still isn’t discussed enough to encourage parents to seek help and recover from this common condition which makes it so much harder for the parents who are suffering in silence. From personal experience, I hope by writing this I am able to help parents to discuss the subject more freely, find support in others and find a path to recovery.
Postnatal depression is very real and can be extremely debilitating, however it doesn’t mean a parent is not a good mum, it is just is a condition which needs help and support. It really can effect anyone as it is caused by hormone imbalance post birth, so no-one is exempt including mums who have already got children, that person who has never experienced depression or mental health issues before and even someone who considers themselves to be mentally strong and has always dreamed of having a baby. This, for some reason makes it harder to accept for a lot of people.
As well as personal experience, I can also offer advice on a professional level having spent many years of my career supporting parents suffering from postnatal depression. I have seen first hand how difficult it can be for new mums and how they feel they are a failure for not feeling excited to have a new baby, a feeling more common than people think.
I have supported many parents and started support groups for parents when working in London and Hampshire and have found that listening and empathising something that has always come naturally to me. I have always wanted to make a positive difference to mums going through hard times but only when it was my time to have children that I really became aware of the struggle and this has helped me to further understand the support required and how important it is for parents to feel they are not alone, support is available and they can feel better in time.
I had always known that I wanted children and from the age of 16 have always worked in the child care industry so having children of my own seemed like the right path, however it wasn’t easy. We suffered pregnancy loss and after my fourth miscarriage I suffered with what the doctor prescribed as depression without a baby and for me, my family found it very difficult as I have always been bubbly and smiley but this made me cry most days and I often felt dizzy and that then made me feel even worse. I started a great new job but I just couldn’t do it because of how low I was feeling so decided I had to take some time out which I was able to do thanks to my husband. During this time, I took up running and even on the worst days I made myself run and this formed a bit part of my therapy and road to recovery and I began to feel better. I also benefitted hugely from my amazing family who took the time to listen. Having someone, whether that is family, friends or a professional to talk to is extremely important. Talking and crying helped me work through my feelings and I was able to see an end to the tunnel.
Thankfully, I was then lucky enough to have our first daughter but after her birth, anxiety engulfed me as I was so scared of something happening to her and having yet another loss. I found I was not able to enjoy the early weeks but at this point I realised I needed help to make things better and started a course of CBT which was amazing. This course actually encouraged me to train in the subject as I feel it can be such a beneficial tool and should be more available for new parents to access.
Acupuncture and CBT can be amazingly helpful for recovery as well as believing that you are able to deal with depression and anxiety to find a positive way through. Self belief, remembering that you are an amazing person and the little person in your life will often show you the path to recovery.
My advise to anyone suffering with postnatal depression or for anybody who has a loved one who is suffering, is to give yourself time, take up mindfulness, yoga and sport and don’t suffer in silence. Please talk about it as others are often scared of admitting they are suffering too.
I can’t stress the importance and benefits of simply talking to someone, whether that be a friend, family member or professional about how you are feeling. By getting your feelings out there you are opening up a pathway to recovery.
Mindfulness and meditation
Practicing mindfulness and meditation is a hugely beneficial tool that can help you retrain your way of thinking to focus on the present and not focus on negative thoughts or worries but simply acknowledge and accept them and move on, not dwell on them. There are many more benefits to mindfulness which have even been proven with studies at Havard, see more here. Mindfulness apps such as Headspace are great for getting started.
Incorporating the practises of meditation and mindfulness, yoga stretches and poses awaken the body and bring instant relief to tense muscles. Yoga groups such as our baby yoga also offer a place to meet new friends and bring you out of the isolation sometimes felt with a new baby.
Outside sports in particular such as running and cycling are a fantastic aid in recovery, giving you fresh air, a reason to get up and out of the house and expel energy which will also help you sleep.