Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: my experience with perinatal depression

Read a blog from one of our service users as they share their experience of perinatal depression.

“Let’s go back to the beginning. What is perinatal depression? Perinatal depression occurs during pregnancy, end of pregnancy or within a year after birth.

“This form of depression is very common but isn’t spoken about a lot. Many women suffer from this condition with no idea what it is or how to get help. Others know but are afraid to seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health in general. Pregnancy is perceived as a very beautiful thing (which it is). Therefore, whatever comes with it is deemed “normal” and “it’ll pass”. After all, being a mother is the best job in the world!

“Now onto my personal experience. After I found out that I was pregnant, I was devastated as it wasn’t planned. Plus, the same day I found out was the day of my IUD appointment (eight months after having a baby). From that day, my mood gradually deteriorated. It wasn’t until I was almost six months pregnant that I really got overwhelmed.

“I was at my antenatal appointment when I broke down to my midwife about how I was truly feeling about the pregnancy and everything else. From that point on, my medication was increased. I didn’t have to attend any more antenatal appointments and the midwife came to my home once a week instead. My midwife referred me to the Perinatal Mental Health Team which I had no idea existed. Once the baby arrived, I was told about the Diverse Mums’ Group.

“The most difficult part and the reason it took me that long to finally speak to my midwife is due to the stigma around mental health, particularly around perinatal mental health. As a woman of colour and from a Nigerian background, I’m supposed to be strong, resilient and just get on with things, so I assumed it was normal to feel this way as long as “I get on with it “.

“Breaking down in my community is perceived as weak, letting myself and my family down. In all honesty, I didn’t plan on speaking out on the day that I did. My midwife asked if I was ok, how I felt about the pregnancy and I burst into tears before I could stop myself.

“Coming to this group made me realise that I’m not alone and not speaking up on time is fairly common among women of ethnic minority like myself. Meeting other mums who have been through what I’m going through has given me hope that this is just a chapter in my life and I will get better and move past it like they have.

“The guilt and shame associated with this condition is simply unfair. I urge anyone out there contemplating if it’s OK to feel overwhelmed, please do not be ashamed and try and speak to your midwife. They are there to help you. I understand that people use the phrase “we are here to help you” a lot but really, it’s true – especially if its coming from a healthcare professional. If I hadn’t told my midwife, I don’t know what would have happened to me.

“In conclusion, we need to shed more light on perinatal mental depression. Let’s talk about it more, as part of antenatal classes/appointments, encourage women to speak up and seek help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of hence the reason I decided to share my personal experience on the matter.

“You are not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”