Age at interview: 32
Background: Elizabeth and her husband have two sons aged 6 and 5. They live in a large city. Elizabeth is a public servant and is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Elizabeth was diagnosed with postnatal depression after her second child. She spoke with her GP, took antidepressants (first escilatopram (LEXAPRO) then desvenlafaxine (PRISTIQ)) and saw a counsellor. She feels better now, however believes she 'still carries the experience of depression with her'.
More about Elizabeth
Elizabeth and her husband had their first child when they were in their mid-20s and their second child 16 months later. Elizabeth described herself as a 'high achiever' who made a 'textbook' transition from school to university to the workforce, but felt having children was her true 'calling in life'.
Not knowing many people with children, Elizabeth's perceptions of pregnancy and parenthood were 'unrealistic'. When her own experiences were different from her expectations, she struggled to adjust. Although she was diagnosed with postnatal depression (PND) after her second child, Elizabeth said 'the story started much earlier'.
Elizabeth experienced severe nausea during both her pregnancies. She described this as 'all-encompassing', and said she struggled to focus on work. Being prescribed ondansetron (ZOFRAN), to help prevent nausea, in her second pregnancy was a 'lifesaver'. Elizabeth also talked about a lack of 'support or recognition' for women who experience nausea during pregnancy. Elizabeth was repeatedly told that nausea was 'a sign of a healthy pregnancy', which was frustrating for her.
Elizabeth's first child was born via an emergency caesarean section, which she described as 'stressful' and 'scary'. For her second birth, Elizabeth had an elective caesarean, which created 'new, nicer memories'. However, she felt that the trauma of her first emergency caesarean would always stay with her, and a counsellor suggested Elizabeth may have experienced post-traumatic stress.
Early parenthood with her first baby was 'very challenging' for Elizabeth. She described having trouble breastfeeding and her baby was unsettled. Despite this, she felt pressure to breastfeed. As she was uncomfortable feeding in public she did not go out much. Her husband's long hours at work added to her sense of isolation. Elizabeth said switching to formula after six months was a relief and 'took that whole stress away'.
Around this time Elizabeth found out she was pregnant with their second child, earlier than planned. A few months after the birth of their second child they decided to move house. Dealing with this, a young toddler, and a baby was 'the breaking point' for Elizabeth. She described 'an overriding feeling of just not coping', crying, having no energy, and avoiding social interaction. Going to see her GP was 'a really difficult decision', as acknowledging to herself she wasn't coping and telling an outsider were 'two very different things'.
Elizabeth described hoping her experiences were a result of a physical health issue, as postnatal depression 'felt like a personal failing'. After a few months she began taking antidepressants, then saw a 'brilliant' counsellor who she was able to talk things through with.
Over time, Elizabeth gradually started to feel better and lowered the dosage of her antidepressants. Although she feels depression may 'rear its head again', she now realises she doesn't have to be a 'perfect parent' and that 'every parent has times when they're not coping'. She wishes she had sought help earlier, and her advice to other parents who are struggling is not to 'feel afraid about telling people how you feel'.