Up to one in six women experience postnatal depression or anxiety in the year following the birth of their baby. If you identify with any of the experiences below, we encourage you to take our two-minute Mums’ Mental Health Checklist.

Emily

I was looking at the birth as something I had just to get through, get it done, spend a week getting over it, and then just get straight back in to life as though nothing had happened. So, Odette arrived and she was a dream baby. She slept, ate and was happy all the time, but I was having trouble connecting with her. In about a month, I knew something wasn't right because I knew the euphoria of a new baby with my first child. I remember being in love instantly, but with Odette, I just... I felt like I'd been given someone else's child. I'd hear her crying, and I didn't instantly want to rush to see if she was okay. I almost resented it. I felt like a terrible person and a bad mother.

One morning the thought of getting up, breastfeeding Odette and going to work just crushed me. I turned to Scott, my husband, and said, "I can't do it today," and he asked me what I meant, "Life. I just... I can't," I said. He suggested I see a doctor.

I went to see my GP and explained my symptoms, she said I wasn’t tired but had postnatal depression. She told me I needed treatment, to see a psychiatrist and try medication. I was surprised at how easy it was to get the help once I talked to someone, and I wish I had had gone much earlier. I realised immediately that I actually had postnatal depression within a month of giving birth. I even think I may have even had depression before I gave birth.

The support and assistance I got after the diagnosis helped me realise that what I was feeling was okay. I wasn’t a bad person or mother. That gave me hope and I slowly started to recover. There were ups and downs, and some days were better than others. But eventually the clouds parted and the sun came out again. Odette and I are closer than ever now.

 

Gia

When my son entered this world after a difficult labour, he was rushed to the special care nursery. I didn't get to hold him for about 8 hours after he was born. I kept staring at him with all these tubes and drips in him… and I was so scared of him. I didn't bond with my baby. I was waiting for that moment that you see on the commercials or the ones you read about in the books but it never happened. For the first few days I was numb, in a world of my own, not really comprehending that I had just had a baby. On about the fourth day I started to get this intense feeling in my stomach and wasn't quite sure what it was. I knew something wasn't right. I started to cry and found it extremely hard to stop myself from crying. I started to realise what that intense feeling was… it was fear. I was so scared of taking this little baby home. This little baby who I wanted so much and tried so hard to fall pregnant with… was terrifying me. I started to freak out that he was coming home with me and that I would be responsible for him for the majority of the day on my own. I didn't want to bring him home from the hospital… I wanted to leave him there until I could sort something out… where could he go that someone could love him and give him the life he deserved? I mean I did love him but I really had changed my mind about being a mum. I didn't want to do this anymore, I wanted it to go back to being just my husband and myself. The guilt associated with that was almost unbearable.

When we finally went home I remember not being able to sleep even though I was so exhausted and crying uncontrollably. As it started to get dark each evening the panic would set in as that is when my mum would retire home for the evening and I was left with my son. My husband stayed up many, many nights with me trying so hard to understand what it was that was making me feel this way. He listened to my babble and wiped away the tears night after night. I was too scared to tell him at first how I felt. I was worried that he would leave me if he found out I didn't want the baby anymore, that I had changed my mind. He was amazing. Although he didn't understand, he was very supportive and just listened a lot.

About a week after we got home I decided that I could not do this anymore, it wasn't fair on the baby, my husband and me. I went to see my GP who after passing me what seemed to be a million tissues, diagnosed me with postnatal depression. I was put on anti-depressants and after about a month I started to feel better. I wasn't scared of my baby anymore and started to really enjoy him. The tears stopped flowing so regularly and after about 6 months I began to feel great.

Two years later I gave birth to another beautiful little boy and again suffered from postnatal depression. This time though I knew what I had to do and it wasn't so terrifying because I knew what was happening to me.

I was placed on antidepressants once again and after about a year I was successfully weaned off them.

PND is the worst thing I have experienced. It swept the rug from underneath me and completely took me by surprise. However, with the help of your GP you can get through it just as I did. I never thought I would feel normal again, but you do. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

I love my boys more than anything on this earth and have a wonderful relationship with them both.

 

Juliana

In May 2006, when my second son was eight months old, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. I had no family history of the illness and had enjoyed good mental health my entire life. I didn't realise I was experiencing postnatal depression because I was bonding well with my baby. I experienced feelings of worthlessness through the entire pregnancy, but attributed the negative feelings to hormonal changes.

There was nothing dysfunctional in my relationship with my baby and that's what I thought postnatal depression was about - when you're not bonding with your baby or you want to hurt your baby. My husband and I were continually arguing. It was getting to the point where I hated myself so much. My whole world was falling apart and I knew something was wrong, but I just thought it was because my husband and I were having personal problems.

During a routine check-up for my baby, I was given an Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale test by a nurse. The test contains 10 multiple choice questions about a mother's mental well-being. My score indicated I was at high risk of having postnatal depression.

That really struck a chord with me because I had been feeling so awful. I went home and got straight on the beyondblue website. I took a test and it had big, bold writing at the bottom recommending I see someone.

I went to a GP, who made the formal diagnosis of postnatal depression and prescribed anti-depressants. Within four days it was like walking out of the blackness. I could see colour again, I could smell again, I could taste again. It wasn't just the anti-depressants that helped me. I recovered using a whole range of things, including medication, counselling and a lot of personal work. I had to re-program myself to think completely differently. I'd always thought of myself as an intelligent, able, confident person. Being diagnosed with a mental health disorder was a huge slap in the face. I certainly don't feel that way about it now. It took a long time just to feel comfortable with myself and knowing this is what I had. In a way, coping with my depression has been a blessing in disguise.

It's turned out to be the greatest gift of my life and a positive thing. I'm still on the medication and I need to keep my thought patterns in check and be aware of my thinking and internal dialogue. I have a tool kit of things I know will help me back on track: living a healthy life, exercising, eating well, resting and taking time out for myself. I decided to tell my story to encourage other mothers and pregnant women to seek help at the first sign of depression and anxiety and not just dismiss it as hormonal changes.

Related reading: Finding a GP that can help with mental health issues

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