I recently caught up with a girlfriend whose baby is a few months old. She answered the door straight out of the shower and promptly burst into tears before I could say hello. I came with banana bread and we ate that and drank tea and sat on the floor playing with her gorgeous little baby daughter.
I watched her. I listened to her. I watched her with her baby and I looked at her eyes when she spoke. She was tearful, she was EXHAUSTED but she didn’t have PND, of that I was almost certain.
A couple of weeks later and she’s much better. She was just having a bad day. I’ve had plenty of those in the first few months of motherhood! Who hasn’t.
But it made me think about how important it is that we keep an eye on each other. We must look out for our friends when they’re pregnant and after they’ve had babies. We must watch and listen and notice how they seem. If you’re already a mother, you’ll probably be able to tell the difference between a bad day and something more serious.
Don’t be polite. Ask questions. If you’re worried say something. If she avoids you or deflects your questions, talk to her partner or her mother or one of her other friends. Don’t just let it slide. Because the best people to notice that something isn’t right is often the friends of a new mother. And it’s beholden on all of us to not let anyone slip through the cracks…….
It’s post-natal depression awareness week this week. Celebrities and people in the public eye do us all a great service when they speak openly and honestly about difficult times in their lives. Especially when those things are intensely private and often misunderstood things like mental illness, relationships, body image or addiction.
Journalist Jessica Rowe experienced post-natal depression after the birth of her first daughter Allegra. She’s now a Beyondblue Ambassador and here she shares her personal experience of Postnatal Depression and you can also hear more stories, share your personal experience or find out more about Postnatal Depression on the Just Speak Up website.
Around one in seven Australian mothers experiences postnatal depression. Anxiety is even more common and both anxiety and depression can occur during pregnancy. Beyondblue has recently launched a new campaign titled Just Speak Up. This national campaign has been developed to raise awareness of pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety.It encourages mums, dads and other family members to “just speak up” and get the help they need.
In GOOP , Gwyneth writes:
When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth, much the way I had when my daughter was born two years earlier. Instead I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life. For about five months I had, what I can see in hindsight as postnatal depression, and since that time, I have wanted to know more about it. Not only from a hormonal and scientific standpoint, and why so many of us experience it, but from the perspective of other women who have gone through it. Below is an indelibly beautiful piece by Bryce Dallas Howard chronicling her very personal experience.
Gwyneth’s friend Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Ron Howard – one time Happy Days actor and now acclaimed director) is an actress known most recently for her roles in Twilight: Eclipse, Spider-Man 3 and in GOOP she writes:
I loved being pregnant. Yes, I threw up every day for six months, and yes, the stretch marks were (and still are) obscene. But I treasured every moment I had with this new life growing inside me. .
I distinctly remember the first night I was alone. It was less than a week after the birth, and I still refused to take even Aleve for fear of how it might affect my milk. Theo woke up next to me, and I knew I needed to begin breast-feeding. Because of the stitches, moving even an inch sent daggers of pain tearing through my body. I tried to sit, but finally gave up and lay still as my tiny son cried. I thought, “I’m going to die here, lying next to my newborn son. I am literally going to die tonight.”
It was not the last time I felt that way.
..Before Theo was born, I had been in good humor about my 80-pound weight gain, but I was now mortified by it. I felt I was failing at breast-feeding. My house was a mess. I believed I was a terrible dog owner. I was certain I was an awful actress; I dreaded a film I was scheduled to shoot only a few weeks after the birth because I could barely focus enough to read the script. And worst of all, I definitely felt I was a rotten mother–not a bad one, a rotten one. Because the truth was, every time I looked at my son, I wanted to disappear.
Although perceptive, intuitive, and sensitive individuals surrounded me, my numb performance of “delighted new mom” seemed to fool everyone. It wasn’t until my “shower breakdowns” began to manifest out in the open that people began to worry.
One afternoon my best friend found me sobbing on the floor of my bedroom with Theo sleeping in a bassinet beside me. It was late afternoon, and I hadn’t yet eaten because I was too overwhelmed to figure out how to walk downstairs to eat. “Bryce,” my friend said, looking confused, “if you need help preparing food, just ask me.”
“How can I take care of my son if I can’t take care of myself?” I sobbed.
Post-partum depression is hard to describe—the way the body and mind and spirit fracture and crumble in the wake of what most believe should be a celebratory time. I cringed when I watched my interview on television because of my inability to share authentically what I was going through, what so many women go through. I fear more often than not, for this reason alone, we choose silence. And the danger of being silent means only that others will suffer in silence and may never be able to feel whole because of it.
You can read the full version of this GOOP newsletter here which includes some expert commentary on postnatal depression.
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a set of questions designed to see if a new mother may have depression. The answers will not provide a diagnosis – for that you need to see a doctor or other health professional. The answers will tell you however, if you, or someone you know, has symptoms that are common in women with PND.
You can download this PND checklist at Beyond Blue
If you or someone you know is suffering from PND and/or you need help there are many organisations Australia wide that can help.
PANDA Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc
Telephone support: 1300 726 306 9.30 – 4.30 Mon-Fri
Email support: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyondblue To find out help in your area call Lifeline’s Just Ask information line on 1300 13 11 14 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm EST). Just Ask can also post you copies of any of beyondblue’s fact sheets on depression. More resources and information can be found on their website here.
Gidget Foundation promotes awareness of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression amongst women and their families, their health providers and the wider community to ensure that women in need receive timely, appropriate and supportive care. The Gidget Foundation has great resources and factsheets available on their website. http://www.gidgetfoundation.com.au/information.html