Updated: May 20, 2021
After having a very difficult pregnancy I gave birth to my first child in 2013 after 3 days of labour, during which me and my baby both nearly died. I had to have surgery after having my baby too and I struggled, the family dynamics weren't perfect which didn't help. Although diagnosed eventually with Post Natal Depression I actually was suffering with both postnatal depression mixed with anxiety. Post natal depression is sadly incredibly common with 10-15 in every 100 women become depressed after having a baby.*
I was lucky enough that had no issues connecting with or looking after my baby, I loved her wholeheartedly. But I knew something was wrong because I felt really sad most of the time and my anxiety was out of control- the defining moment for me was the washing machine going onto it's spin cycle made my heart pound in my chest and sheer panic rise up in my throat! Clearly that was illogical because what could possibly happen to me or my baby with the washing machine spinning? I knew I needed some professional help.
Car journeys were also a massive trigger for me, I didn't cope well with being the passenger. I hated the lack of control I had if someone else was driving, I no longer trusted anyone else to drive us around. I would grip hold of the car door until my knuckles were white if I had to be a passenger, with butterflies in my stomach, and an intense feeling of dread and immanent doom that I can to this day recall very vividly.
The one time I took a bus with my baby I was in Scarborough for a weekend away. It was a very bumpy journey and the driver appeared to believe he was a formula 1 racing driver and even put his feet up on the dashboard at one point. I thought I might pass out my fear and dread was that overwhelming, I could no longer hear the people around me clearly all I could hear was the rushing of my own blood in my ears. I had to focus entirely on my breathing to control the panic rising within and to reduce my hyperventilating, calm my pounding heart and sweaty palms.
When we finally reached our destination and got off the bus I vowed never to ride on a bus again and sadly I didn't for quite a few years. It just goes to show that a negative experience can haunt someone for a long time and possibly even for life if we don't address it.
Thankfully I was able to identify that I was struggling with anxiety and low mood and I went to my GP who immediately supported me to access a review from the hospital into the poor maternal care I had received and subsequently to make a formal complaint. They placed me on a short term course of antidepressants to help alleviate the anxiety whilst I worked through my issues. Although medications aren't for everyone they worked for me very quickly, I felt more in control of my emotions and more able to deal with the day to day things that had been triggering my anxiety, they also allowed me to sleep without experiencing as many flash backs as I had been.
Alongside the medication I worked through the traumatic experiences of the pregnancy and birth to come to terms with what had happened. I used meditation, yoga and general mindfulness to help me to remain calm. Simple and effective breathing techniques helped me during triggering events such as car journeys and trips to the supermarket.
With the help and support from loved ones and some professionals I recovered both physically and mentally from childbirth and my Post Natal Depression/Anxiety. And although I had concerns that I would relapse when my second child was born I actually felt strong and in control of my mental health when she arrived.
Author: Gill Jackson of Gill Jackson Therapeutic Counselling, BA Hons Counselling, Diploma in Couples and Family Therapy, CIPD, SMACCPH
Bio: I am a Therapist/Psychotherapist and Accredited Mentor in private practice in the UK. Qualified since 2007. Working with adults, young adults and children. I specialise in Anxiety Disorders and Depression.
This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, if you are suffering from any physical or mental ill health please seek advice of your Doctor where necessary.
*Woody CA, Ferrari A, Siskind D, Whiteford H, Harris M. A systematic review and meta-regression of the prevalence and incidence of perinatal depression. J Affect Disord. 2017; 219: 86-92.