Postnatal depression 

Mums who have had postnatal depression talk about the feelings they faced, and perinatal psychiatrist Dr Margaret Oates explains how it can be treated quickly with the right help.

Find out more about postnatal depression

Transcript of Postnatal depression

When you first have your baby, no matter how much you love them,

they're often strange and rather frightening.

Your hormones are all over the place and your emotions go up and down.

That kind of emotional rollercoaster is very common, if not normal,

and I think that women should be advised

that there are going to be times when they feel lonely

and perhaps, even shocking though it may sound, bored.

And it doesn't mean that they're wicked.

My mother was living with us at the time

and I'd just be handing the baby,

and she was just "the baby" or "it".

Steve was going to work, my mum looked after the older girls and Annie

and I just felt like I existed.

Most of us don't function very well on lack of sleep

and so if you put that into the equation as well

then it's not surprising that the first six to eight weeks, on occasion,

can be difficult and challenging.

The whole nine months of pregnancy I was in this bubble, unreal bubble,

and I didn't realise how hard this is going to be

and how my life is going to change and...

Just all the negative things. I could just see the negatives.

About the present situation and about the future.

We know that about ten per cent of all women who have had a baby

will suffer from something called postnatal depression

in the few months following childbirth.

Everything felt so difficult

and yes, I kind of questioned my decision of having the baby

and just questioned everything,

my relationship, my lifestyle,

everything just looked really, really sad.

Most of the women who fall into that ten per cent category

will be suffering from mild postnatal depression

which will respond to either

social and emotional support from family and friends

or from special listening visits by the health visitor,

and it doesn't require antidepressants.

I would moan to my friends about the lack of sleep and how tired I am

and get tearful and stuff but never actually ask someone for help.

You can't admit after a few days

that actually it's all upside down and not how you imagine it.

It kind of takes a while.

About three per cent of women do suffer

from a slightly more severe form of postnatal depressive illness

and that really does usually require an antidepressant as well.

Devastating.

I didn't want to go to bed

cos I knew that in the mornings it would be worse.

I felt I was in a black pit, just falling,

and I couldn't get out of it.

It was the most scary part of my life.

I couldn't function.

I didn't want to function, I didn't want to move.

That was when I began to realise that if there had been a cot death,

actually life would be back to how it was before I was pregnant

and it would be alright.

Women who are suffering from a depressive illness

often isolate themselves and don't feel like going out.

They often have a characteristic sleep disturbance.

They often feel dreadful first thing in the morning

and then better as the day progresses.

And it's consistent day in and day out.

We usually say these feelings would have to have lasted for two weeks

before you would actually start saying somebody is ill.

I don't know if you really understood at all where I was coming from.

- No. - What was going on for me.

I wasn't prepared for it at all.

I wasn't able to recognise the symptoms for what they were.

I just thought it was...

Carol had managed the first two children OK.

In general the more children you have, the easier they become.

I was able to cope before, I am a coper,

and here I was coping with absolutely nothing.

Nothing at all, barely getting out of bed.

(Margaret Oates) If you are depressed and you're worried about yourself,

the most important thing is to tell somebody.

Tell your health visitor.

For the more severe illnesses,

if your sleep's interfered with and if your concentration's interfered with,

go to your doctor.

Most of these illnesses will be treatable by the GP quite quickly

and you should expect to recover from your illness within six weeks.

I was put in touch with the Association for Postnatal Illness

and that was a lifeline, actually.

As well as being on the antidepressants

I could ring up this mum...

This mum would ring me up, who also had had it,

and here was someone who could understand what I was going through.

(Alex) I was away for the weekend.

I'd been away before and it was always just pure relief and joy,

and for the first time I missed my daughter

and I looked at other babies and other children or families

and if they had two children I thought

how lovely it must be for the little one to have someone

and for you to actually do it a second time.

So the un-possible unimaginable thought has entered my mind.

I can't believe I've come through it

and that there is a life after it, but there is.

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