Postnatal depression: new mum mental health

The first few months as a mum can feel overwhelming… but if there are more downs than ups – as was the case for Robyn Wilder – it’s important not to ignore your feelings & to talk to an expert


Robyn's story

"My two-year-old, Herbie, is a curly-headed monkey with a dimpled, mischievous grin, and he makes me laugh every day. But when he was a new baby, life was very different. He was colicky, covered in eczema, cried all night, and grizzled all day unless he was being entertained. Herbie just wasn’t the sort of baby you could stick in a bouncer while you got on with showering or housework. So I spent the first few months of motherhood unwashed and living in a dirty house."

"His behaviour, I was told, was partly down to a traumatic birth – but I was suffering, too. As if the physical and emotional upheaval of new motherhood weren’t enough, I was also having unwanted flashbacks to my labour, and feared accidents befalling my baby. My confidence hit a low. I was convinced I was a terrible mother, that my son preferred everyone else to me. I wept daily."

"To top it all off, my husband and I had moved to a new town, so I had little family and no friends nearby for support. I withdrew into myself and basically became a Netflix hermit. For months it was just me, my baby, and endless bleak Scandi dramas, which – unsurprisingly – did nothing to lift my mood."

"And that’s all I assumed it was – low mood. It was only when I admitted my feelings to my midwife, health visitor and GP that I was handed a diagnosis: postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from the birth. According to the Royal College of Psychologists, one in five new mothers will experience some form of mental health difficulty, and more than one in 10 will develop postnatal depression."

Don't dismiss your feelings

"Perinatal mental health issues (those affecting expectant and new mothers) include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more. The trick to preventing things getting out of hand, says Dr Aman Durrani from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ perinatal faculty, is not to dismiss your symptoms. 'The signs of perinatal mental health problems can be masked by common feelings of anxiety caused by helter-skelter hormones and the massive change ahead of you. But tell your doctor. If you’re open about it, healthcare professionals can support you with counselling, advice, and medication that’s safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding.'"

How to rebuild your confidence

"I am living proof that being open about your mental health works. My diagnosis led to counselling, medication, and a craft group for mothers (yes, really!) with postnatal depression. It got me out of my Netflix rut, and gave me breathing space while Herbie was in a crèche. It gradually showed me that I was still a person, not just a babyminder, and that I was doing an okay job. This helped rebuild my confidence and quieten the panicky thoughts that had fogged up my brain."

“Today I’m a working mother with two happy, healthy little boys and numerous adventures together under my belt. No, my mood isn’t always brilliant but now my eyes are open to it, and I have strategies in place to cope if I ever feel low. And I know from experience that I’ll come out the other end well again.”

Where to look for help

Speak to a professional

Whether it’s your health visitor, midwife, local pharmacist or your GP, they can not only advise on health issues affecting you and your baby, but can also offer guidance regarding where else to go for the support you need. 

Get support online

Charities like Best Beginnings have advice, apps and interactive tools on their site to help parents. Best Beginnings covers the timeframe from conception until age three.