Postnatal depression: The Notts women lifting the lid on the sensitive condition

It is thought up to 20 per cent of new mothers will have some form of mental illness either during pregnancy or after birth. Image: Pixabay

A simple Google search brings up more than one million results for the phrase ‘depression in men’ yet just 28,000 for ‘postnatal depression’ (PND) – so why is the common condition not being talked about much? Holly Skelton meets some Nottinghamshire women trying to end the silence.

It affects more than one in every 10 women in the UK within a year of giving birth and can also affect fathers and partners.

And of around 660,000 deliveries each year in the UK, it is thought up to 20 per cent of new mothers will have some form of mental illness either during pregnancy or after birth.

Pop star Adele, 28, recently revealed her battle with postnatal depression after having son Angelo in 2012, and like many women says she has even been put off having more children.

She joins a list of celebrity mums including Gwyneth Paltrow, Katie Price and Elle Macpherson who have also spoken out about their experiences with the condition.

Yet it remains an isolated subject that is rarely talked about openly.

What is postnatal depression (PND)?

  • PND is one of many health illnesses women can suffer from during the perinatal period.
  • Other conditions include anxiety, OCD, Post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis.
  • It can develop at any time during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth.
  • Any woman can be affected and each individual may experience different symptoms.
  • If you suspect you may be suffering from a perinatal mental illness you should contact your health visitor, GP or midwife, or tell a friend or family member.

Four years ago Wollaton mum Sarah Brumpton founded charity Open House after suffering from severe postnatal depression following the birth of her second son Charlie.

She was admitted to the Margaret Oates Mother and Baby Care Unit at the Queens Medical Centre for treatment when he was just 11 months old.

Sarah Brumpton founded charity Open House after suffering from severe postnatal depression
Sarah Brumpton founded charity Open House after suffering from postnatal depression in 2011.

“I was referred to the unit after experiencing mild psychotic symptoms, acute anxiety and severe depression – I felt extremely low and knew something wasn’t right,” she said.

“I spent eight weeks on the ward – which were mostly spent in bed – and with the help and support of staff and the right medication I was able to recover and become a functioning person again.

“It may sound cliché but it was like a miracle – the person who left the unit was a different person to the one who went in.”

The experience made Sarah think that there is a lack of support for people suffering from perinatal mental illness in Nottingham and she wanted to do something to help.

She founded Open House with the help of mother-of-three Geraldine Ransford Kilpatrick as a way to offer peer support to women and create somewhere they can share their experiences without fear of being judged.

Sarah and Open House co-founder Geraldine both spent time on the Mother and Baby Ward at the QMC.
Sarah and Geraldine both spent time on the Mother and Baby Ward at the QMC.

Sarah said: “There is such a stigma attached to perinatal mental illness and people often find it hard to talk about.

“Society is bombarded with images of being the ‘perfect mother’ and if you don’t match up to that it can have a negative effect.

“We encourage people to be open and honest, and talk about their experiences so they can see that these are normal thoughts and emotions experienced by many other women.”

As well as holding a weekly drop-in group the charity funds therapeutic activities for mums on the Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) at the Queens Medical Centre where several group members received treatment.

The six-bed unit is one of just 15 in England and provides specialist care for women who are suffering from a severe mental illness while in the late stages of pregnancy or up to one year after giving birth.

MBU ward manager Debbie Sells has worked there for 19 years.

She said: “On the ward we see the more severe cases of postnatal depression – but this is just the tip of the iceberg and many women suffer from depression and low mood on a daily basis.

“Most women find it hard to admit they are struggling – they think they should be able to cope with the stress while still being a good mother, a wife, working a job and running a house.

“We need to talk more about perinatal illness and generally make people aware that these are common, every day feelings experienced by many women.”

In November 2016 NHS England announced it will spend £40 million on specialist mental health services across 20 areas in England as part of its drive to support pregnant women and new mothers with severe mental health problems.

Debbie said: “It’s great that the NHS is ploughing money into mental health services but there needs to be more training for professionals so they can recognise symptoms of PND in patients sooner.

“There has been a massive push for perinatal illness in the media recently and things like the documentary My Baby, Psychosis and Me and the storyline in Eastenders have got people talking.

“Each individual is different and no two cases are the same – it is important for women to know that it’s ok to feel low, it’s ok to struggle and it’s ok to seek help.”

For more information on postnatal depression and perinatal mental illness, visit the NHS Choices website or contact your local GP or health practitioner.

Symptoms of PND

  • Feeling sad and a low mood
  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Problems concentrating and making decisions
  • Feeling tearful
  • Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby or self-harming