Three mothers have bravely spoken out about feelings of isolation and fear when they suffered from postnatal depression after the birth of their children.
But Alison Whitehouse, 29, Fia Lane, 21, and Francesca Calise, 48, are determined to let other new mothers know one thing: “You are not alone”.
“It has been the loneliest and most terrifying thing I think I have ever experienced,” said Whitehouse, who is mum to 15-month-old Rupert and runs the blog Actively Balanced.
“For me though it has never been about my son, Rupert and I are so close and have a great bond, but every other feeling has been very overwhelming.”
Postnatal depression (PND) is an illness that affects between 10 to 15% of new mums, the Royal College of Psychiatrists states.
Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND but any woman can be at risk, whether they have suffered from mental health issues before or not.
“PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault,” said Dr Raja Gangopadhyay, a consultant obstetrician with a special interest in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) and supporter of the postnatal depression charity Pandas Foundation.
He said PND often starts within one or two months of giving birth.
Lane, who is mum to four-month-old Kairo, explained: “As soon as I gave birth, I hoped that I would have that gushing of love and excitement.
“But it just wasn’t there. I was crying all the time, non-stop, but it frustrated me because I couldn’t explain to anyone what was going on in my head.
“I loved my baby I just didn’t feel happy. I felt like I didn’t have my life anymore. I knew I was suffering.”
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.
Calise, who is mum to eight-year-old Guilia, said she couldn’t sleep after her baby was born because of the thoughts going on in her head.
“I felt exhausted,” she said. “I felt so tired that I couldn’t take care of myself and having this baby to take care of was terrible for me.
“The worst feeling was that I didn’t feel considered as a person or as a woman, I was just the ‘mother’.
“I hired a cleaning lady, because I couldn’t make it on my own anymore. She saved my life – somebody was finally understanding me.”
Whitehouse, Lane and Calise are determined to remove the stigma associated with postnatal depression and remind any mothers suffering that they are not alone.
Lane explained: “I do feel there is such a stigma against this because as soon as you admit you have it, you think you’re admitting you can’t cope.
“You worry who will get involved. But you have to speak out.”
“No one is going to take your baby off you,” added Whitehouse.
“It is so worrying thinking: ‘If I talk about it, people are going to think that I’m a bad mum and take my baby away’.
“But they’re not.”
Dr Gangopadhyay encouraged women to seek help and reminded them that there is no shame in admitting you are suffering.
“This is an illness,” he said.
“It needs care, it needs support and it needs treatment, like any other health condition. With appropriate care, all women can recover.”
Watch the full video above to hear the three women’s stories.