"I thought they’d take my baby away”: Young mums share their experiences of postnatal depression

Young mothers have been sharing their experiences of postnatal depression (PND), as a new study finds a third (33%) of UK mothers experience symptoms after giving birth.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 3:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 3:20 pm
Rebecca Lockwood, 30, experienced postnatal depression when she was 24 after the birth of her first child.

The research, conducted by Livi, the digital healthcare platform, surveyed 1,000 UK mothers about postnatal depression (PND) and found that young mothers in particular can be badly impacted, with a shocking 29% of 18–24-year-olds saying they considered self-harming.

The main signs include persistent depression or low mood, lack of energy and lack of interest in the wider world. Problems sleeping, difficulty bonding with your baby and having disturbing thoughts can also be symptoms.

Chloe Ward, 34, said: “I had my daughter in 2012 and unfortunately it was a very traumatic birth. Looking back, I was definitely in shock for several months.

"The first time I felt like a failure was when I struggled to walk normally leaving the hospital.

"A passer-by said: “I thought you were meant to be happy when you had given birth” loud enough for me to hear.

“I was unable to breastfeed and my baby lost a significant amount of weight. I attended weigh-in clinics where posters in the clinic shamed bottle-feeding mums, which led to me stopping my visits, and I became more isolated.

“I realise now, looking back, that the early signs of postnatal depression were there but not always those that I was warned about in antenatal classes. I was getting dressed, eating and putting make up on, but underneath the surface it felt like I was wading through jelly and suffered from exhaustion, lack of motivation, social anxiety and massive loss of a sense of self.

“I grew very withdrawn from my family, husband and friends.

"I think it took almost two years to reach my real point of recognition that I’d suffered for a long time since the birth and not addressed it.

"This came to the surface when I went back on the pill and my mood plummeted. I felt suicidal and was unable to focus on any interaction, make decisions or complete simple tasks. I had an amazing doctor who immediately recommended seeing me in person and discussed options for treatment.

"These were CBT for anxiety and antidepressants for my mood.

“My main realisation was ultimately that PND does not occur the same way for everyone and does manifest after traumatic events.”

One of the best ways to address these negative feelings is to talk about them with other people, such as a doctor. Unfortunately, however, more than one in seven (15%) say they found it difficult to talk about their postnatal depression, with one in ten (10%) calling it a taboo subject.

This could explain why so many new mothers are reluctant to admit their symptoms and ask for support (15%), despite it being a great way to alleviate the strain. Young mums (18-24) in particular feel uncomfortable asking for help with their babies (22%) and they are the least likely to seek professional advice for their depression (4%).

Another young mother, Rebecca Lockwood, 30, experienced postnatal depression when she was 24 after the birth of her first child.

She said: "For the first six weeks, I would find myself sobbing uncontrollably and feeling helpless.

"Then I would feel even worse because I was wracked with guilt. At first, I found it hard to ask for help as I was terrified that if anyone knew how I was feeling my baby would be taken away.

“Eventually I was able to admit to myself how bad I really felt and ask for help from my doctor. It started with medication for a short time and then counselling, CBT and psychotherapy over a 12-month period.

"This helped and left me feeling a bit better, but it wasn’t until I trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming, timeline therapy and hypnotherapy that I finally felt completely better.

“I became aware of the judgement I held towards myself and my whole perception shifted as I realised that I needed to be much kinder to myself. I understood how my mind works and why I was behaving the way I was.”

Dr. Elisabeth Rosen, a doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology at Livi, has given her top five pieces of advice for women who experience symptoms of postnatal depression:

1) Talk to family and friends

Tell them how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask for help with things like looking after the baby, so you can catch up on sleep or socialising.

2) Find local support

If you don’t have anyone to turn to - for example, if you’re a single mother with no friends or family close by - look for local support groups. A doctor should be able to help you find one in your area.

3) Rest

Try not to be a perfectionist. It doesn’t matter if your house doesn’t look immaculate, or all of the chores aren’t done. It’s more important that you catch up on sleep and rest when you can.

4) Eat healthily

Having a baby makes demands on the body, so eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly (or when you can) is crucial.

5) Seek expert help

Your doctor can refer you for a course of therapy with a psychologist. Cognitive behavioural therapy is shown to be effective in treating postnatal depression. Antidepressants may also be recommended in certain cases where depression is severe and other treatments haven’t helped.

Dr. Rosen added: “There is an expectation of women that they should feel super happy after having a baby, but many women are hesitant to admit that they don’t feel this way.

“In fact, it’s common for new parents to feel depressed, confused, frustrated, tired and disillusioned - that’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Support and treatments are available, so speak to a doctor, who can help you to work out what the best options are for you. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence.”

For more information and advice about postnatal depression, visit: https://www.livi.co.uk/your-health/help-for-postnatal-depression/