Shedding light on postnatal depression

GIVING birth is often seen as a wondrous time, filled with nothing but joy and love.

But for one in five women and one in 10 men in Australia, this is not the case – something that young mother Katy Paul knows only too well.

Just three-weeks after giving birth to her son Isaac, Ms Paul was diagnosed with postnatal depression.

“I couldn’t eat, I cried constantly and I felt like a complete failure as a mother,” she said.

“All I ever wanted was to become a mother and so I felt endless guilt and shame that my journey was to begin in such a traumatic way.”

At first convincing herself that it was just the baby blues – something that would go away once her hormones settled – Ms Paul didn’t realise the extent of her depression until her sister spoke to the obstetrician on her behalf.

Ms Paul was immediately transferred to the St Helens Private Hospital Mother Baby Unit, where she was put under the 24-hour care of a psychiatrist, psychologist and a team of midwives and nurses.

“This all seemed so over the top to me at the time, I felt like an absolute failure and like I was being ridiculous,” Ms Paul said.

“Struggling with anxiety my entire life, I am someone who has always talked about mental health issues openly and I can admit that I felt shame – I believed I had no right to be feeling the way I was.

“I had a beautiful, healthy son, a loving husband and a supportive and wonderful family, so what was wrong with me that I felt so unhappy?”

Alongside severe postnatal depression and anxiety, Ms Paul was also diagnosed with agoraphobia (fear of public spaces) and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the physical and emotional trauma of her labour.

“I stayed in the Mother Baby Unit for six-weeks and continued seeing my psychiatrist and psychologist for 12-months afterwards,” Ms Paul said.

“Thanks to the right medication, therapy and support from medical professionals and my family, I am now a much healthier and happier mum who can finally say that I enjoy motherhood.

“I never imagined postnatal depression would happen to me, but it truly hit me so hard and fast.

“I hate to think where I would be if I hadn’t sought help as soon as I did.”

Fast-forward nearly two-years and Ms Paul is now a ‘Community Champion’ for Prenatal Depression & Anxiety Australia (PANDA), a not-for-profit organisation that provides specialist support for those suffering from antenatal and postnatal depression.

Ms Paul said she hoped sharing the story of her struggle – and eventual triumph – would help someone else seek help when they needed it most.

“The shame and stigma that is often associated with postnatal depression can make is so hard to seek help,” she said.

“But perinatal anxiety and depression is temporary and treatable.

“I wanted to become a PANDA ambassador to help start those conversations that many parents find difficult – to let those suffering with postnatal depression know that they are not alone and that it’s okay to seek help.

“The amount of messages I receive shows me how worthwhile and important this is. Many people just need to talk to someone who has experienced the same thing.”

Ms Paul, whose son is now 20-months-old, said motherhood and battling postnatal depression was nothing like she expected.

“But I am heading in the right direction and I truly want to be the best mum I can be,” she said.

“There are lots of ways to be a good mum and making sure you are as happy and healthy as possible is just so important.

“I won’t let postnatal depression define me – it is something I have, not something I am.

“My baby boy is loved, cherished and well cared for and I am able to do all these things so much better thanks to the help I received.”

For more information about PANDA, visit www.panda.org.au.

To follow Katy Paul’s postnatal depression journey or to make contact, visit https://candidkaty3.blogspot.com.au or visit her Instagram page by searching candid_katy.

For more information about St Helens Private Hospital Mother Baby Unit, phone 6221 6444.

Caption: Katy Paul with her young son Isaac.