In my book The Pram Diet I talk openly about my experience with Post Natal Depression after having my first daughter Lily and also about how much stigma I perceived there to be around it, how much I thought I would be judged, how I thought admitting it to those closest to me would make them think I didn't love my baby, wasn't grateful for the blessing of motherhood, I thought no-one would understand.
As I began to open up and talk about it I was stunned by the strong waves of support I found, and by the amount of mums who then shared their own stories with me, and those who thanked me for being so honest and open about it.
The biggest misconception with post natal depression is that it is only the extreme cases you might see on the TV or read about it when the truth is, it can be so varied and different, mothers can have different symptoms and it can vary from mild to very extreme and everything in between.
Some women have quite mild symptoms and some very serious and severe and all should be treated with respect, dignity and support.
What IS a common thread to it is that it is something experienced by women from all walks of life, from high incomes to low incomes, from celebrities to everyday mums, it doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t only affect those with hardships in their lives.
The most important thing to remember is suffering from PND is nothing to be ashamed of, it doesn’t make you any less than as a mother, it does not mean you don‘t love your baby, it does not mean you aren’t happy to be a mum.
It just is.
We can all make a huge difference by increasing support networks and promoting awareness and understanding.
So what can you do if you think you are or someone close to you is suffering from PND?
- Reach out to those around you. You’ll probably be very surprised to learn that some of the mothers you know have been through the exact same thing and words cannot describe the relief of sharing your story, sharing your experiences and knowing you are not alone in this.
- Get Support. Along with talking it over with your doctor and midwife ( who should always be your first point of reference) there are fantastic groups out there for mums that can make such a positive, non judgemental difference.
From www.beyondblue.com to Facebook groups like http://www.facebook.com/#!/MumsHelpingMumsPND and my own private fb mums group https://www.facebook.com/groups/20093089740/
- Get out of the house. It might feel like the last thing you want to do but it can make such a difference to your day. Get out in the rejuvenating fresh air, get away from the housework, even if it’s just for 30 minutes it can really help.
- Go for a pram walk. New studies have been conducted that show there is a definite link between exercise and easing depression,
Professor Mary Galea with the University of Melbourne found that exercise can reduce the risk of PND by as much as 50%.
And it was pram walking that helped me personally so much during my depression after having my daughter Lily. Every single walk we did I felt a little better, like the dark cloud lifted just a little each time until eventually I felt like a new me and the skies all seemed blue. Calmer, happier, less angry, and alive again. No longer looking in from a lonely place.
- Try something active or relaxing that you enjoy like Yoga, swimming, pram jogging or a fun mums fitness class.
- Build a support network. It is a sad fact that in our busy modern lives we have less and less extended family and support networks around us and a solid support network is SO important for all new mum’s. If you don’t have a lot of family close by reach out and build one. Ask your midwife when you are pregnant for link’s to mother’s groups in your area and to introduce you to other pregnant mums.
even having someone who can come over and cuddle your baby so you can have a relaxed shower can literally transform your day.
- Socialise. It can be the last thing you feel like doing sometimes with a newborn but it can help your day so much. Some light laughter, sharing stories and just even adult conversation can really help brighten your day.
- Nurture yourself. You are important. Try to include some healthy foods in to your diet, drink plenty of water and take whatever help family and friends offer and try not stress over the little things, your post baby body or the housework!
Please if you think you might be however lightly or strongly feeling like you may have post natal depression, anxiety or are just over stressed or not coping - DO reach out, there is beautiful help and support out there, and I promise it will really help xx