How one mama battled her own prenatal depression with a holistic and mindful approach to wellbeing
Words: Sheryl Franklin
Thinking back to the days when I was pregnant, I remember when the age-old saying “nothing can prepare you for motherhood” started to concern me. I like to be prepared and started to feel like I wasn’t (despite all the incessant “preparing for your baby” book reading and “well-meaning” advice from others). I distinctly recall women gushing about loving being pregnant and enjoying the start of their motherhood journey. Honestly… I didn’t.
I could feel something changing towards the middle of my pregnancy, as I didn’t feel like “myself”. When I look back, my prenatal depression (PND) started when I was around five months pregnant.
There are many factors that can influence PND. For me, it was about my shift in identity and a feeling that I had no idea what I was doing; venturing into the unknown world of motherhood I felt sad and incapable.
The first few months of my son’s life can only be described as a hazy blur. So I decided I had to get help. After a couple of trips to my GP, the options outlined to me were anti-depressants or counselling. I didn’t want to become dependent on medication to fix my feelings, but when I said I would try counselling the doctor advised me there was a months-long waitlist.
I certainly didn’t have time to wait, and I was acutely aware that if I didn’t find a solution it could get worse. I wasn’t willing to take that risk. I wasn’t willing to let it take away the joy of motherhood that I desperately wanted to feel, to have that mummy glow and truly experience the most wonderful job in the world.
“I distinctly recall women gushing about enjoying the start of their motherhood journey. Honestly…I didn’t”
So I decided to take steps to help myself, with a mindful approach to my wellbeing. Yoga had always been a huge part of my life and I made a commitment to go as often as I could, to get my identity back and feel like myself again. There is a strong link between mental health and how yoga can help ease depression, and I can truly say it improved my mood and mind-set considerably.
Gradually, with my holistic approach to wellbeing through yoga, mindfulness/meditation and surrounding myself with a strong support network of friends and family, I was able to start feeling more like me again. I also ate the right foods and nourished my body and mind to help me with the shift towards being a new mother. It was very much a lifestyle change.
As mothers, we tend to forget about ourselves post-birth, as, naturally, our attention is on our little bundle of joy. However, when this becomes a detriment to our mental health, something has to give.
While there is a shift in awareness on mental health and PND – both pre- and postnatal – women need to feel empowered about speaking up about it. More than 70,000 women in the UK suffer. That’s an NHS estimate based on the women who have been brave enough to speak up. Of those, only 15% seek help. I’m passionate about helping the 85% of women who may be suffering in silence, and the 15% who do not feel as supported as they can be.
We need to bridge a gap between traditional counselling and medication. In a society where wellness is considered as paramount to our overall wellbeing, we need to take a closer look at how we support mothers holistically on what can be a very difficult journey.