Secret shame

I keep reading that postnatal depression is the illness or condition that affects a lot of mothers but that no one talks about. As a mum and as a depressive, I have found that it is discussed widely. I don’t think it is stigmatized anymore. In fact, it feels more like a sloppy assumption, a writer’s shortcut, to still refer to it as rarely-discussed or hidden; that keeps it secret and shameful.

The problem I find with post-natal depression (or depression generally) is that it isn’t easy to spot. There is no rash, for example; no straightforward set of symptoms that every sufferer will have, so diagnosing depression is very hard. Self-diagnosing is even harder. And as the old saying goes ‘acknowledging you have a problem is the first step’ so what happens if you or someone close to you knows that something is off but not necessarily that it’s a treatable illness? Maybe more information is needed as to how to spot the many and varied symptoms.

I don’t know if I was just very lucky that my midwife and health visitors were particularly ‘on it’ and so I wasn’t at any real risk of being lost to post natal depression alone. I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety disorder since my teens and was slapped with a bout of antenatal depression so it was generally assumed I would suffer after Arthur came along. But still, I was closely monitored and frogmarched to the doctor as soon as it looked like I was plummeting. But there are horror stories in the press all the time about those poor women who go overlooked and undiagnosed. These stories rarely have happy endings.

I would like there to be a much greater medical/psychological focus on mums in the perinatal stage and in those first few hours and days after birth. If Bounty and other companies have a place on the post-labour ward then surely there could be a more pronounced mental health team?

It isn’t shameful or secret to have postnatal depression but our awareness and acceptance of it needs to be supported and bolstered by knowledge so that no one feels they are suffering alone.

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