To help spread awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety we have been publishing stories bravely written by women and men who have experienced PNDA. This is Natasha’s story …
My partner and I needed to use IVF to conceive. After learning I was pregnant I was so happy. How could I not be? Many people don’t conceive at all through IVF, so we had every reason to feel grateful and excited. But then a few weeks later I started feeling really low. I was getting teary all the time. I thought it was a delayed reaction to the stress of IVF, but it didn’t go away.
I thought to myself – this can’t be normal. I’ve got every reason to be happy. But I wasn’t. I’d experienced depression in my life before so I realised that my current symptoms were something serious. I tried to do things to make myself feel better, like spend time with my friends and family, but it didn’t make my low feelings go away.
I had been on medication for depression in the past which helped, but I didn’t want to do that this time because I was pregnant so I tried to stick it out. Unfortunately, my mood just got worse and worse, so through consultation with my GP and other medical professionals I went back onto medication.
The medication didn’t help as much as I hoped it would. I was still struggling to cope emotionally and couldn’t concentrate. I started to worry about how much my low mood and anxiousness might be affecting the health of my baby – which just made me even more anxious. And so it went around and around.
We talk about pregnant women being emotional because of the hormones, but I could tell that this was way beyond that. I was crying at work every day – I just couldn’t control it – and when I was about six months pregnant I had to take some time off. Initially it was just for a couple of weeks but then I couldn’t go back at all. So I spent the rest of the pregnancy at home, trying to manage my symptoms.
It was at this point that I went to the PANDA website looking for advice and information. I found a listing of a psychologist who specialised in antenatal depression and gave her a call. She was amazing. I’m so glad I found her. She really helped me through the last few months before the birth.
The first few days after my son was born were great – we were in a private hospital and were really well looked after. We had meals cooked for us and everything. We felt really supported, everything was taken care of, and I felt like it was going to be OK. But once we were home, I started feeling the same symptoms I had before the birth.
I felt really low, and that I couldn’t cope. I was existing on ten times less sleep and I had a little baby to care for. I was also struggling because I was constantly comparing my connection with my son to the connections I could see other new mothers having with their babies, and it never seemed the same. I felt like everyone else was doing a better job. I started catastrophising: like, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was tired all the time, I wasn’t a good mother, and it was going to be like this forever. And then that fed into my anxiety and made it worse. The first couple of months were particularly hard on my mental and physical health.
But then things just started to get a little better. My partner was amazing. She was just so supportive and loving. So was my family – they rallied around me, just like they had during the pregnancy. And my little boy started becoming just that little bit more independent. I could put him down for a few minutes at a time, just to have a break. A few months later he could come into the bathroom with me and play by himself while I had a shower. The pressure was off just that little bit, so I felt better able to cope. And I was starting to have regular good moments, instead of regular bad moments.
I continued to improve with the support of my partner and my family, and a little bit of TLC towards myself. I was adjusting to the changes in my life, such as less sleep and anxieties around my son’s health, which was important because these were the things I really struggled with after birth. Now my little boy’s almost two and I’m much better.
I think I’ll always live with depression – it’s just in my make up, I accept that. But I can manage it better now that I know the different ways it can affect me. The three of us are going to be OK. And by sharing my story, I hope I can help others who struggle to know they’re going to be OK too.