Up to 25 per cent of new mothers get PND, and almost 50 per cent of teenage mothers, and it can last several months or even a year. And yet this huge departure from the rose-tinted image of motherhood is constantly swept under the carpet.
A TV programme tonight featured several women who were badly affected by PND. Instead of being overjoyed by the new arrival, they felt no bond with the baby, they felt their body was ruined, they cried all the time, they felt paralysed, they felt inadequate, and when it was really bad they just wanted to die. Some mothers are so distressed they actually kill the child.
Often they’ve never heard of PND and they don’t know what’s going on. They just wonder why they can’t cope and wonder what’s wrong with them.
They feel scared or ashamed of admitting their feelings or asking for help. If they do admit their feelings, they may be shunned by their friends who see them as abnormal.
Whether help is available is very much a postcode lottery. In some areas mothers can get all sorts of help including psychotherapy, anti-depressants and mothers’ groups. In other areas there’s very little help and PND is still seen as nothing more than “baby blues”.
The causes of PND are still not properly understood. Many things have been suggested, from birth-related trauma to marital difficulties, low self-esteem and unwanted pregnancies. Whatever the cause, it can strike right out of the blue, even to women who were perfectly happy and well-adjusted before the baby was born.
So let’s stop pretending new mums are always over the moon. Quite often in private they’re thoroughly miserable and desperate for help.