Postnatal depression (PND) is a serious illness that affects around one in every ten women.
Liz Crudgington, 31, a journalist from Herne Bay, describes the agony of postnatal depression and how she pulled through – with a little help from the NHS.
"Holding my newborn daughter in my arms, I waited for the thunderbolt to hit. I'd heard so much about this moment and everyone said the same thing – it was a life changing experience, full of emotion and an overpowering rush of love. But as I gazed into baby Natasha's big blue eyes, I just felt empty.
She was a textbook baby, taking easily to breastfeeding, sleeping well and full of smiles when she was awake, but I felt no more attached to her than to any other child. I cared for her and all her needs were met but inside I wished someone would take her away so my life could get back to normal.
No one expects looking after a newborn to be easy, but I felt totally unprepared for the sheer mind numbing boredom of it. The endless cycle of feeding, winding and changing was a world apart to my busy working life as a local newspaper reporter, where I was surrounded by people and action and adult conversation.
When my husband, Mark, went back to work after paternity leave, I felt incredibly jealous. His life had returned to normal but mine had been turned upside down. I could no longer just pop to the shops – just getting out of the front door felt like a military mission and some days it was all too much effort.
Even getting out of bed felt like too much and there were times I just cried for hours, without really knowing why. I knew the way I was feeling wasn't normal, and when I did venture out to baby groups or to see friends I felt even more of a freak as I listened to the other mums cooing over their babies - I just wanted mine to go to sleep so I wouldn't have to deal with her.
It all came to a head when I went for my routine postnatal check and ended up bursting into tears. The practice nurse referred me to the GP who diagnosed postnatal depression and prescribed antidepressants.
It took a while to find the right dose but when we did I soon noticed the difference. The terrifying depths of despair I'd felt were muted into manageable lows and some of the awful thoughts I'd experienced began to disappear.
The pills were not the only answer and I knew I had to tackle some of the issues becoming a parent had raised or I would never fully recover. So my GP referred me to a psychiatrist and the community mental health team, and I joined a group therapy scheme at Riverside Children's Centre in Canterbury.
I also saw a private therapist and began the slow journey back to being me again. By Natasha's first birthday I was starting to enjoy being a parent and now I couldn't imagine being without her - and I know that feeling of overpowering love that everyone talks about.
When she was three, I felt ready to face the risks of PND again and baby Daniel was born in December. It's not easy dealing with a newborn again but I know the support is there if I need it. And most importantly I know that even if I do develop PND again, with the right treatment, I will recover." You can visit Liz’s blog at www.ihadpnd.blogspot.com
Support when you need it
Mary Bullivant, a health visitor based at Riverside Children’s Centre in Canterbury, runs a postnatal depression course for new parents. She said: “The course lasts for ten weeks and we look at all aspects of PND including treatment, self-esteem, birth experiences and managing stressful situations.
We also hold a special evening during the course where partners can come along and get information about PND. One woman told me that this simple intervention saved her marriage – finally her husband understood exactly what she had been going through.
When the course is completed, we can refer parents to a group of local peer counsellors – volunteers who have been through PND themselves and who have received training in how to support other mums who are experiencing the same issues.
Mary runs courses in Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay. Anyone interested in the PND group, or who has experienced PND and would be interested in volunteering to be a peer supporter can contact Mary at Riverside Children’s Centre on 01227 475551 or email firstname.lastname@example.org