Post-natal depression – a story with a happy ending

post natal depression

by Carolyn Tate

You know when you used to watch the Brady Bunch or Happy Days and occasionally they would forego their usual levity to communicate a SERIOUS MESSAGE about racism, or child abuse or weird step-sibling relationships?

Well, this post is sort of like that. Imagine I’m Mr Cunningham putting down my paper to have a SERIOUS TALK, Richie. Except today we’re talking about post-natal depression – something that might leave Mr C a little flustered.

So, I got post-natal depression about five months after having my second child. It was such a surprise. But I felt completely disconnected from my son and overwhelmed by the banality of life at home with a baby (no idea why it struck with my second and not with my first – the levels of banality were pretty darn even).  I withdrew from my friends and just concentrated on getting through each day.

We were so excited to welcome our gorgeous boy to the world.
I was so excited to welcome our gorgeous boy to the world.

I hid it pretty well too – and I especially concentrated on keeping it from those closest to me. The day I told my husband was when I’d had enough and had made an appointment to see my GP. He had no idea. And I didn’t want to share it with my friends because I never wanted to feel like they were just making dates to hang out because they were worried about me, rather than because I was a fun person to hang out with (I wasn’t).

So I saw my GP, was referred to a psychologist and prescribed anti-depressants, and started to feel mildly better. By this time I had gone back to work three days a week. When I told my GP they were my favourite days of the week, she suggested I go back to work full-time. This pissed me off, because I really wanted to connect with my son, not avoid him (not suggesting full-time workers are avoiding their children, but that’s what I was using work for at the time). So I found a new GP who understood what I needed and helped me look at some other solutions.

All looked normal from the outside.
All looked normal from the outside.

You know what worked for me in the end? Giving up breastfeeding. I stopped nursing my son when he was 12 months and 1 week old. I felt suddenly better two days later and have never looked back. Now, I would never advocate not breastfeeding in case of PND, but this worked for me. My GP said it is not uncommon for that to help – something about hormones blah blah science – but that the Australian Breastfeeding Association will probably be at my door with pitchforks when I publish this.

The point is, different things work for different people, and you need to keep looking until you find the right help for you. Giving up breastfeeding helped me. When I became pregnant with Little Red a few months later, I was terrified of descending down that dark hole again, away from all that I love to a world of numbness and despair.

My three scrummies
My three scrummies

After doing a lot of reading, I decided to try giving up sugar, which I did when I was about four months pregnant. I wrote about that for The Hoopla earlier this year. Coincidentally, or not, I never had a problem this time around. Flash forward 14 months and I am still breastfeeding that little bloodsucker – and she’s showing no signs of letting me stop any time soon. And I’m happy to let it go on.

Friends that found out after the fact have spoken to me in kind – and often hushed – tones. They say they had no idea. That I should have said something. That they would have liked to help. And if there is one message I would want to share around PND, it is this. If you are suffering from it, I guarantee you know people who want to help if they can. Helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. So do them a favour and let them in. And don’t keep on suffering and hoping you’ll feel better. There is so much help around, and loads of different kinds.

And one more thing. PND is so incredibly common. Can we please talk about it like any other illness, rather than feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed? I am happy to talk about it to anyone that wants to listen, but it’s just another chapter in a busy and full life. I’m better now, and if I ever feel like depression is rearing its head again – postnatal or otherwise – I will be getting help before you can say Happy Days. Just like I would with any other illness.

This week is PND Awareness Week. Let’s talk about PND.

Check out PANDA’s website for loads of helpful info and resources.

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.


  • Hugs, Champagne Carolyn. Brilliant piece and more people need to talk about this. I had a close family member who had severe PND that ended up on very heavy medication and no-one but her husband and sister knew. We felt terrible that we couldn’t have helped more – or even understood her – but I also respect her decision to keep it a private matter.

    • Yeah, it’s a tough one. If people were more open about it, there wouldn’t be such a stigma. But there is. And so the secrecy continues. I read a study on the weekend that talked about how many people still feel the need to hide the real reason from their boss if they take time off for depression-related issues. More dialogue required at all levels.

  • Thanks Ms C. Beautifully written story on such an important issue. There is still so much stigma around illness that isn’t physical and I truly don’t understand why. And sadly GPs can be the worst (some are wonderful I know!). You’re an amazing woman for the way you handled your PND… i.e. getting help, dealing with it AND for writing this. Glad to call you my ladymate! MWAH

  • Yes. Letting people in is a huge step but can make a difference if you share with the right people. Glad things are better this time around. Xx deb

  • Such an important message to share. We all need to promote the conversation about PND and you do so beautifully in this post. Asking for help, seeking for help, or even just reaching out to someone is incredibly important – we all need to promote this Josefa visiting from #teamIBOT

  • You make a fantastic and HAWT Mrs Cunningham! Seriously though, with my third I was spiralling down and just had to stop BF-ing him at about 3 months also, I had a 3.5 year and a 21 month old also and I felt I was sinking. Giving up BF made such a difference to my mental health. It’s not to say the first year of his life I wasn’t depressed, but I was, I got fat, I ignored people but I was never brave enough to tell my GP. I’m okay now, and maybe it was just having k in 3.5 years that pushed me over the edge? Thanks for sharing Carolyn 🙂

  • I found that giving up breastfeeding also helped me because it was one less thing to stop being anxious about. I felt a little guilty, but my daughter had allergies so she did a lot better on prescription formula so I have no doubt I made the best decision for us in our case.

    I have also shared my story today for PND Awareness week.

  • It is interesting the link between BF & PND. While I found BF worked for me, I always stopped at 12 months even though I could have physically gone longer. Motherhood is a 24hour job and BF does require an extra amount of energy. Thanks for being brave and sharing your story.

  • Sooo many touch points for me here!

    First of all, something that helped me a lot was changing my pill (the one I went on 6 weeks after Mia’s birth was one I’d never been on before and it had a much higher progesterone level than I’d ever had. And apparently progesterone is linked to mood disorders.)

    Second of all – PND was a surprise for me too with #2 because if I was going to get it, it would have been with #1 (I was running a fast growing business at the time of his birth and didn’t have one day off work!)

    Third of all – telling people and being supported by the people I told was freeing and amazing. If I was having a bad day and put out a call for help, it was so nice not having to explain ‘this is why I am struggling’ … or worse, have to pretend I wasn’t struggling.

    These awareness campaigns are so important. I had no idea how common PND was and how indiscriminate it is (ie it doesn’t care how pressure free your existence is … you can still get it)

    • Thanks Kelly. Holy cow – not one day off – that is crazy! It’s a funny thing but I experienced something similar. With my first I was away from family and my partner worked long hours so I felt like I just had to cope because I was all my daughter had for much of the time. With my son, I had heaps of support, family around, and loads of time off work. It was like I had the time and space to drop my bundle. Not very scientific, I know. And I’m sure people experience PND in all situations but I’ve always wondered if I didn’t get it with my first because I was too busy. And with my third, I have certainly had moments where I have felt less than fabulous, but again, I don’t feel like I’ve had the chance to think too deeply about things. Having said that, I won’t be testing any more theories with a fourth. 😉

      Thanks for your words. And would you post a link to your story? I’d love to share it here if I can.

  • Brav-bloody-o! Get it out there I say too. Being honest is the only way to start releasing yourself from the dogs chains!

    Interesting fact about the BF thing. Hormones are cranky as. No girls friend and BF is demanding. Interesting about the quitting sugar thing too. I have been considering the big quit and think sugar has a huge impact on mood perhaps even depression. Snaps to you for giving it the boot!

    Loved this post, ta x

    • Thanks Vicki – love your comment. Sugar has been an interesting one for me. I gave it up completely and now have small amounts in moderation – but in stuff like raw honey, or maple syrup, or dates. I try to avoid processed foods where I can but I’m not fanatical. Sauces are a big problem when it comes to sugar. I highly recommend Sarah Wilson’s quit program – she’s very thorough and pragmatic about the whole thing.

      I do find a big change in my mood if I overindulge now though, so I know it was definitely doing something. I see evidence of it in my oldest daughter sometimes too so I am careful about what my kids eat too. Poor things. 😉

    • Thanks Anne, hopefully they won’t – as with me: 14 months of BFing without any major issues. But even if it happens, at least you know what you are dealing with – you will recognise signs earlier and take action sooner. And if you have to bottle feed to be the best mum you can be, so be it. It doesn’t mean you are less than in any way. Best of luck with your new little person. LOVE the smell of a newborn baby! xx

  • Carolyn thanks sooo much for sharing this post. It is so important that people understand not only is it OK to speak out and ask for help, but that help may take different forms. And different things work for different people is something we are constantly trying to relate. There is no one fix for perinatal depression and anxiety. If only! The importance of sharing our individual stories shows the range of recovery journeys people take, and hopefully shows someone who is struggling that if something doesn’t work for them, try a different approach. Because you will recover. With support there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.

  • Well said!
    Been there, done that, got the PND shirt, and I 100% agree this needs to be a talked about topic and not taboo. No one is any less of a person for not coping; we’re all just human

  • Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I had no idea there was even a connection with BFing and PND! It’s so wonderful that all of these wonderful ladies are brave enough to come out and share their stories. Women, need to hear and know more about PND and all it’s forms as well as ways REAL mumma’s have managed it.

    • Thanks Sam. I’m sure the connection between PND and BFing is the exception rather than the rule, but it’s increasingly apparent to me I wasn’t the only one that had this issue. It’s great that so many people have been talking about it.

  • I to had PND with my 2nd child, an incredibly difficult time help by the support of my hubby and and a very dear friend. I reluctantly sort help from my gp and antidepressants, which I continue to take (now without shame). For me stopping b/f helped but mainly as I felt it was one less burden that was solely mine to bare. Nearly 2yrs on I have found new ways to cope with my issues!!! Exercise being one. My friend and I recently ran the Melbourne marathon (42km) in support of a local woman’s charity who help provide postnatal support and counselling. We raised over $6000 🙂 to help other mums xx

    • Wow, Kelly, that is so inspiring – what a great effort and a wonderful way to turn things around and feel like you are helping others. AMAZING!

      I agree, exercise is key. I run a few times a week and do yoga and/or pilates. I know I feel worse if I have to miss a session. I think for those who don’t exercise, it’s important to make your goals attainable and start small so you feel like you are kicking some goals. Then build up as you go and you feel better.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly.

  • I had PND with my first child but did not go to my GP as did not want to go on anti-depressants. I went on a no sugar diet and had acupuncture to help balance my hormones and also started having more time out for myself. It was a very hard time but I have a Great husband and awesome friends that helped me along the way.

    • Well done, Sasha. I think help can come in all sorts of forms, and whatever works for you is best. How did you find the results of acupuncture? I’ve only had it once and that was for inducing a baby, but have always wondered how it would be for anxiety/depression.

  • Thank you for sharing your story and reassuring me my recent decision to stop BF due to unexplained anxiety might be linked to it. I ve been on a roller coaster ride trying to get answers as to why my body and head is a mess. I had PND with my first child as soon as he was born but this time around I was adiment I’d hold myself together. Three months after my second was born I started feeling not right- I’m happy and feel like I’m coping fine, but my body has been saying otherwise. I’ve had really bad IBS, not sleeping well, anxiety attacks, racing heart, night sweats to name a few! My obs told me months ago it was because of BF and it would all go away when I stop. I’ve pushed through and lived with it for 5 months (while being paleo and not having much refined sugar- now looking into GAPS) and I have made the sad decision to stop. It’s been 1 week without a BF and I’m still not right but here’s hoping I feel better soon . The positive thing is I’ve been through it before so I can reassure myself it will pass in time. I’m grateful I gave my son 8 months of BF lets just hope it was the right decision to stop!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Emma. You’re right – I think that’s a benefit of having already been through it once – that you have the perspective to understand what is going on, and the knowledge that it will pass and you can feel like yourself again. Good luck getting through it as quickly as possible. 8 months of breastfeeding is FANTASTIC – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. xx

  • First time read here – thank you for your interesting blog!
    Makes soooo much sense to me.
    Didn’t BF my first, then succeeded with my second and got PND. Boooo! Went sugar-free during pregnancy and for the year after third, no PND, but now after 6 months of being back on the sugar-bandwagon, feel like rubbish. Back to therapy, back to drugs. I want to do sugar-free again but now feel very confused as there are a lot of opinions out there (meaning the internet ;)) , any fruit? no fruit? heaps of fruit (loni jane?? just heard about her)? Fruit but no dried or juice? bah. Also having 3 kids and hubby means not much time or brain cells to find these things out about myself (ie trial and error, working out what works for MY body).
    One day!

    • Hi Sue, and welcome! Thanks for sharing your story – and sorry to hear you are going through such a roller coaster ride.

      I think you hit the nail on the head about finding what is right for your body. There is so much conflicting advice out there and you have to wonder if some people are just trying to invent a point of difference so they can sell their book/program/version of the sugar-free gravy train!

      I don’t believe in cutting out fruit completely – there is so much that is good about fruit. But I don’t drink juice and I limit dried fruit to a few sultanas thrown in my bircher muesli. But that’s what works for me – and if I find I’ve had a bit too much for whatever reason, I just take care over the next couple of days to reel things back in.

      Good luck with it. Oh, and I hear you about finding time and headspace to think with three kids!

      Hope you stick around for some more Cartel action.

      C xx

  • I love a happy ending. When I started talking about my experience with PND I was shocked at how many people said, “Me too”. It helps so much to know that others feel/have felt that same way, and most importantly that it can and does get better.

  • Yes! I had it with baby number one and didn’t actually realise until he was 9 months old. Dodged it with baby two but found over the years it’s extremely common. As with most illness support and information are vital. Thanks for writing about it x

Leave a Reply