Joanna’s story (Exeter)
Five days after the birth of my first child I experienced extreme anxiety and a sense of terror overwhelmed me. I was diagnosed with PND [postnatal depression], but I didn’t feel depressed, just incredibly anxious.
I was prescribed antidepressants and gradually I started to feel better. But when I discovered I was pregnant with my second son, the anxiety returned and this time it was even worse.
I felt suicidal
At my lowest point, I was suicidal and highly distressed. I felt unable to endure another moment of feeling so terrorised and I ended up being hospitalised and placed in a psychiatric unit.
I was diagnosed with severe antenatal generalised anxiety disorder, and after a perinatal mental health midwife arranged for me to return home, I started taking the medication that had helped me before.
Within a couple of months I had improved, but I never fully recovered. I wasn’t even able to breastfeed my second son and that was the most emotionally painful thing I experienced.
Must improve access
My husband also went through hell when I was ill. The person he loved was struggling to cope and he felt helpless not knowing what to do. It seemed as if there was no support for partners of those suffering with perinatal mental illness and this needs to change.
Greater investment in maternal mental health has to be achieved, and I would also like to see more local mother and baby units. They made a massive difference to me – people just need better access to the fantastic services they provide.