Why we need to have honest conversations about baby blues and postnatal depression
Having a baby is meant to be one of the happiest times in your life, but, for so many of us, it can also be really challenging.
Perinatal mental health issues, like baby blues, postnatal depression and anxiety can make the transition to parenthood incredibly hard. As someone who has experienced these struggles, I know firsthand how overwhelming it can all feel.
In honour of World Mental Health Day, I wanted to shine a light on the importance of talking openly about perinatal mental health and share my own struggles with baby blues following the birth of my first son.
The reality of baby blues: my experience of feeling overwhelmed
It’s estimated that around 80% of people will experience baby blues after giving birth yet it’s a topic we hear so little about – I had certainly never heard about it before having my own babies!
I’ve always been a very maternal person, so the thought of struggling with my mental health after having a baby never really crossed my mind.
When I discovered I was pregnant for the first time 5 years ago, I couldn’t wait to be a mother. I daydreamed of sunny days proudly pushing my baby around in the pushchair, going out for coffee with my imaginary new mum friends and spending blissful Sunday morning cuddled up in bed…
Fast forward to the day my baby was born – it was a really difficult experience.
Yes my baby was born healthy but I was left feeling broken mentally and physically. I felt like my body had failed me, I grieved the natural birth I had so badly wanted and I found myself being thrust into this new role as mother feeling extremely vulnerable.
I felt tearful, emotional and overwhelmed constantly. I felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach every day and felt anxious about leaving the house.
I barely slept and was constantly watching my newborn sleep, checking his temperature and worrying myself endlessly.
I was also struggling to physically and mentally recover from giving birth, whilst also trying to simultaneously breastfed/pump/combi feed.
I suffered from blocked milk ducts, mastitis and extreme sleep deprivation.
I loved my baby beyond words but I just didn’t feel like ‘me’.
I felt so guilty and shameful for the feelings I was having, especially as I’d always imagined this time in my life as being so full of joy and happiness. To be honest, even writing about it now those awful feelings of mum guilt come creeping back up to the surface.
After about 4 weeks, my low feelings weren’t shifting, so I decided to speak to my GP.
I told her how anxious and teary I was feeling since giving birth, worried that she was going to say I had postnatal depression.
The GP was so lovely and reassured me that my feelings were normal. She said I had something called baby blues, which was really common. I was told it should settle by the 6 week mark but to head back if my low mood wasn’t lifting as this could be a sign of postnatal depression.
This conversation really changed my mindset and gave me the confidence that my feelings would pass.
But why had I never heard of baby blues before? Why had no one told me that I might feel this way after giving birth?
This is exactly why we need to have these open conversations about mental health, particularly after we've given birth.
How I overcame baby blues Knowing that baby blues were common was such a relief. I started to focus on ways that I could ‘fill my cup up’ to counteract these low feelings so I started:
Getting fresh air every day
Talking openly about my feelings
Asking for help as & when I needed it
Keeping a diary and writing down how I felt
I also booked a birth reflections appointment at my local hospital to go over my birth notes and went to see the wonderful Ruth Olayinka for birth trauma therapy. This really started to help me to feel more like 'me'.
Spotting the signs of perinatal mental health issues
Symptoms of baby blues usually start in the week immediately after you've given birth. Birth trauma, not feeling supported, sleep deprivation and the dramatic drop in hormones can contribute to low feelings.
Feeling emotional and irrational
Bursting into tears for no apparent reason
Feeling irritable or touchy
If you feel like these symptoms aren’t going away or seem to be getting worse, this could be a sign of postnatal depression and it’s really important that you do reach out for help.
The important of advocating for perinatal mental health
The more we speak about postnatal mental health struggles like baby blues, depression and anxiety, the more we break the stigma around it and that’s exactly why I’ve chosen to write this blog.
After having a baby, you can feel such a sense of shame if you do feel low and this side of motherhood isn’t often spoken about.
We’re made to feel like we should be ‘enjoying every minute’ and if we’re not, we’re somehow ungrateful or undeserving. This is so far from the truth and struggling with your mental health does not take away from how much you love your baby.
This is also why I'm so passionate that your baby's birth isn't just 'one day' or 'something to get through'. The way that you feel about your birth experience has huge impacts on so many areas of your life, including your postnatal mental health.
Feeling well prepared and supported during pregnancy with high quality, evidence-based information really sets you up to have the best possible start to your parenting journey.
Sending you love on World Mental Health day - please be kind to yourself!
Blooming Births Hypnobirthing