Postnatal depression, incontinence, body image issues — the bombshells of motherhood.

By Kellie Scott

At 31, new mums and pregnant women fill my inner circle, and phrases like “get cracking” and “you’d make cute babies” are often thrown around.

No-one grabs me by both shoulders and says I have an almost 50 per cent chance of experiencing incontinence and a one in seven chance of postnatal depression.

Or that my post-birth stretched stomach and thinning locks will constantly disappoint next to the unattainable images that flood social media.

GPs would rather remind me “time is ticking” than flag the long list of side-effects, which also include haemorrhoids, birth defects and loss of career.

But they should. Because as several mums and experts shared with the ABC, talking about the difficulties of motherhood can help women not only survive one of life’s most challenging feats, but make an informed decision about whether they want to do it at all.

‘Hair loss was a total surprise.’

Warrnambool mother of twins Jess Griffey said she was totally unprepared for how having kids would impact her self-confidence.

Three months after giving birth her hair began to fall out, a common condition following pregnancy called telogen effluvium (shedding of the hair).

“It was a total surprise. I didn’t realise the extent of it until I saw a photo of myself at a wedding when they [my twins] were four months old. My hairline had receded a good 2 centimetres … I looked hideous,” she said.

“The worst part though is when the hair started to grow back, now I have short hair combined with really long hair.”

Ms Griffey said the look was hard to disguise, but not from a lack of trying.

“I tried to hide my mullet with a clip-in fringe and I ended up looking like a Lego man,” she laughs.

“It does get me down sometimes but I make an effort of telling everyone, even strangers, that I did not intentionally cut a mullet haircut, like they actually care.”

An obsession with poop has also been an eye-opener for Ms Griffey.

“Nobody warned me that there was an age bracket in the human race that enjoyed eating their own faeces. Nobody warned me that no matter how hard I try my house will always look messy and dirty.

“But I wouldn’t change a thing.”

When the baby blues is something more.

At her lowest point, Amanda Palm checked herself into the mental health unit of her local hospital because she was at risk of harming herself.

The Sydney mum of one had been experiencing perinatal depression — which occurs both during and after pregnancy.


“I’d come from a strong career in marketing, I was a really social person, and I thought this was the end of my life,” Ms Palm said.

Beyondblue statistics show one in 10 women will experience depression during pregnancy, and one in seven the year following the birth of their baby.

In fact, women are more likely to experience a mental health condition around the time of having a baby than at any other stage of their life.

Ms Palm said refusing to be ashamed of her depression has been well received by others.

“Mums really appreciate the honesty and how candid I am in the way I explain my experience,” she said.

Despite the hardships she has faced, Ms Palm is in a place she can be off medication and try for another baby.

“You can’t explain to people without children what it’s like, it’s just in your heart,” she said.

“Having a child makes you feel so fulfilled, so loved. So being through all that in hindsight, I would do it all again.”

Beyondblue families project manager Luke Martin said many women didn’t understand how common postnatal and antenatal depression was.

“As a society, we need to review the unrealistic expectations we hold about motherhood being a perfect, happy time because it creates an environment in which women feel uncomfortable admitting they’re not coping,” Dr Martin said.

Why am I not like the mums on Instagram?

Melbourne’s Ani Tuna said her vision of what motherhood — often what she saw on social media — came crashing down when she became a mum.

“We see these images of beautifully dressed mums in beautiful clean homes, staring lovingly into their child’s eyes with great big smiles and you think that’s what motherhood is going to be like,” she said.

“Then you become a mum … it’s 3:00pm and you’re still wearing your pyjamas, the house is a mess, you have an empty fridge and you look at the phone and wonder what you are doing wrong.”

Photos of women with washboard abs six weeks after having babies also upset the mother of two.

“I would look down on my body, and think my body has completely defeated me,” she said.

“I wondered if my husband would still find me attractive, he sees Facebook and magazines too — and none of those women have these stretch marks.”

Ms Tuna said antenatal classes didn’t prepare her for parenthood, only giving birth, and that needed to change.


“If we don’t prepare people for the realities of parenthood, relationship stress, how your body will change, and postnatal depression — they will never be prepared.”

‘Women should be empowered to discuss bladder weakness.’

According to Continence Foundation of Australia, 37 per cent of pregnant women report urinary incontinence, and up to 47 per cent are still affected six months after birth.

And as many as one in four women also have faecal incontinence in late pregnancy, with one in five still suffering one year after birth.

But the foundation’s helpline manager Sue Blinman said it wasn’t openly discussed due to embarrassment.

“Incontinence is never normal [but] you find a lot of women just assume leaking after childbirth is all part of the process and they decide to live with it,” she said.

Ms Blinman said education could help women instead seek help.

“Women are usually quite shocked when they discover the statistical likelihood of incontinence during and after pregnancy, and will say they wished they had known sooner so they could have been taking preventative measures, such as regularly doing pelvic floor muscle exercises,” she said.

“Women should feel empowered to talk about bladder and bowel health without shame, and to share their experiences in an effort to encourage others to seek help for what is a very treatable problem.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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