Age at interview: 33
Background: Anna and her husband have a daughter aged three. They live in a large city. Anna works part-time in marketing and comes from a Polish background.
Anna experienced a sudden loss of confidence in her mothering abilities following difficulties with breastfeeding. Within weeks she was diagnosed with postnatal depression, hospitalised and prescribed sertraline (ZOLOFT) and clonazepam (RITROVIL). She recovered but had a relapse when her daughter turned one. She was treated at home and recovered, but has remained on antidepressants and is now more careful about her psychological wellbeing.
More about Anna
Anna was born in Poland. When she was very young her father migrated to Australia, and brought Anna, her mother and her sister out to join him when Anna was 10 years old. She adapted to life in Australia easily, excelling at school and university.
Anna met her husband at university. Marriage followed, and they began trying for a baby. It took them two years to conceive but Anna and her husband were enjoying working and travelling and were not in a hurry. Anna said she 'absolutely loved' being pregnant and was fit and healthy. Having read extensively about pregnancy and birth, she was confident about the birth, and spent most of her labour at home. Anna had an epidural once her contractions became intense, and her baby was born five hours later.
Upon first meeting her baby, Anna experienced an overwhelming sense that her life was about to change. However, she didn't encounter serious difficulties until she started to struggle with breastfeeding. As someone 'not used to failure,' Anna's self-confidence quickly eroded. She began to despair, sensing she had made a 'massive mistake', and yearned for her 'old life.'
Anna rapidly spiralled into depression, feeling anxious, losing her appetite, and unable to sleep. She began to wonder about giving her daughter up for adoption, and when her baby was two weeks old a relative found her trying to self-harm. Following this, Anna was hospitalised in a Mother and Baby Unit and prescribed antidepressants (sertraline (ZOLOFT)) and anti-anxiety medication (clonazepam (RITROVIL)).
After three weeks, Anna began to feel better and went home, where she decided that she had 'nothing to lose' by trying to make the best of things. Soon she was reconnecting with work and making future plans. When her baby was six months old, in consultation with her GP, she went off antidepressants. However, six months later Anna had a relapse. By then her daughter was too old for them to go to the mother and baby unit and Anna was treated at home by the local mental health crisis team.
After this second episode, Anna took a more cautious approach to maintaining her psychological wellbeing. She has decided to stay on medication permanently and still sees a psychiatrist and psychologist. She would like another child, but she and her husband are unsure.
Overall Anna says she is grateful for the experience of postnatal depression. As hard as it was, she feels she has learned some important lessons about her own vulnerability, being willing to ask for help, and appreciating her husband and her mother who were her main supports.
Anna said the friendships she has made since becoming a parent and having postnatal depression have been far 'richer' than any she had before. Anna's advice to expectant parents is to learn as much as possible about early parenthood before the birth. To new parents who are struggling emotionally, she recommends treating yourself 'kindly' and not feeling ashamed to ask for help or admit difficulty.