It is estimated post-natal depression affects 1 in 5 new mothers. Most people assume that it happens immediately after the birth of your child. My first child was 2 years old when I finally realised that my “PMT” was lasting…well, 4 weeks of every month. It was post-natal depression. The feelings of frustration, lethargy, constant pessimism and short temper were destroying my marriage, the relationship with my son and my ability to work. I was convinced it must be merely raging hormones. After all, for that first year of motherhood everything is supposed to be wonderful.
Given that I had lived with my father, a depressive, until I was 17 you would think I would recognise the signs. But I was continuously looking for other reasons. I could not accept that this was post-natal depression.
My life appeared perfect. I had a good job, a supportive husband, and beautiful son, I just didn’t want any of it! Instead I just wanted to stay in bed and moan. There was nothing obvious causing my deep-rooted anger. I just knew I couldn’t blame it on post natal depression. I was a year past all that, wasn’t I?
I finally went to the doctors (for my hormone imbalance, you understand) when I found myself having to leave the kitchen and all the sharp implements after a minor disagreement over bedtime routine with my husband.
Now I know good doctors are like gold dust, but someone was smiling down on me that day. This wonderful man sat and listened and realised I did not want to hear the word “depression”. So he explained carefully that I need something to boost the levels of serotonin in my body, indeed a hormone, and he knew just the thing. I took these magic pills for 3 months initially…and my life was transformed.
When I returned for my check up, my doctor then explained that the physical and emotional effects of depression were caused when your serotonin levels are inhibited, or blocked. Anti-depressants simply remove the blocks, allowing the levels to return to normal…and you along with them. He explained that, given my circumstances and lack of ANY other causes, he was almost certain that it was post-natal depression.
Nowadays, post-natal depression is a much debated topic. Every midwife is primed to look out for it, and we even have Celebrity Sufferers…Elle McPherson, Jerry Hall, Princess Diana to name but a few.
But when the health visitors stop calling round and you are a year or two down the line, it doesn’t mean you should stop looking for the symptoms, or reaching for help the minute you feel you can´t cope. There are many online forums and chat rooms with of information and support , but your first port of call should always be your doctor.
Track your emotions for a month, go prepared to discuss your exact feelings, and never be afraid to verbalise how bad it gets…there is help out there, and it isn’t just for “ new” mums.