Age at interview: 37
Background: Zara is married with two children, a daughter aged 2 and a ten-month-old son. She is a writer and lives in a regional town. Zara is from an Anglo-Australian background.
Zara experienced postnatal depression including 'intrusive thoughts' about her first baby's welfare. She was prescribed antidepressants (desvenlafaxine (PRISTIQ)) by a GP, and had psychotherapy with a psychiatrist. Zara experienced a 'relapse' after her second baby. Seeing a female therapist, practising mindfulness and taking antidepressants (mirtazapine (REMERON)) have helped.
Read excerpts from Zara's interview
> Caring for a baby - feeding and sleeping - Due to low supply, Zara had to wean her baby at six weeks. This was a 'huge relief'
> Social support in early parenthood - Zara talked about support her husband provided in 'pulling her up' when he felt she was not 'managing' her emotions. Although it angered her in the moment, she was able to see his advice was for her and the family's 'benefit'
> Identifying postnatal and antenatal depression and finding help - Zara experienced intrusive thoughts after her daughter's birth, not knowing that these could be a 'characteristic' of postnatal depression
> Understanding antenatal and postnatal depression - Zara reflected on the 'skewed values' around motherhood and the choices available to mothers. She felt becoming a mother involved having one's status 'downsized', which was particularly challenging to 'educated, older' mothers
> Experiences of medication for antenatal and postnatal depression - Zara's hesitation towards taking medication for postnatal depression was related to her experience of her mother taking medication for 'schizoaffective disorder'
> Non-medical approaches for antenatal and postnatal depression - Due to a history of 'depressive phases', Zara was careful about her physical and emotional health during pregnancy
> Social support during experiences of antenatal and postnatal depression - Zara said she was more willing to be open about her second 'bout' of postnatal depression than her first because her second experience had not been characterised by 'intrusive thoughts'
> Recovery and getting better after antenatal and postnatal depression - Zara contrasted her more recent 'bout' of postnatal depression after her second child with her experience after her first child, which she felt she was 'on the way' to recovery from
More about Zara
Zara and her husband met when they were both in their thirties and were 'focused from an early point' on having children. They soon conceived and Zara described her pregnancy as 'pretty comfortable'. However, when postnatal depression was mentioned during antenatal classes, Zara was prompted to contact a local centre that provided perinatal support to women. She said she thought she might experience postnatal depression because of 'mental health-related issues' in her family.
After her daughter's birth, Zara had difficulty breastfeeding. She did not have enough milk, and switched to formula at six weeks. As a result, Zara had her period at three months and experienced 'intense' premenstrual symptoms. Combined with sleep deprivation and 'over-vigilance' towards her baby, this made her feel 'suicidal' and 'distraught'. Zara was often home alone with her daughter due to her husband's long work hours, and said she began to have 'strange thoughts' about the 'harm' that could come to her baby. She was worried there was 'something really wrong' with her but was afraid to tell her husband.
Zara's thoughts soon became 'overwhelming'. Concerned for her baby's welfare, she called PANDA and was advised to see her GP. Zara went to a late night clinic where she saw a 'pretty dodgy' GP who prescribed antidepressants (desvenlafaxine (PRISTIQ)), without offering other support.
Finding the antidepressants were making her 'more agitated', Zara went to stay with her parents for 'a break'. One afternoon she felt she 'couldn't be trusted alone' with her daughter. Zara told her parents and again called PANDA, who recommended she contact the local mental health Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) team.
The CAT team told Zara she was experiencing 'intrusive thoughts' and that these were very common and a form of postnatal depression. Her husband's 'first reaction' to this was to say he knew she would never hurt their baby. Having worried about telling him about the intrusive thoughts, Zara said this was a 'big relief'. Having 'a name' for her experiences was also 'reassuring' and she began seeing a psychiatrist who recommended psychotherapy instead of antidepressants.
Zara and her husband decided to have another child. Although Zara was 'free of intrusive thoughts' towards the end of the pregnancy, her relationship with her husband became strained after their son's birth due to moving house and financial pressures. After a 'breakdown', Zara began seeing a 'fantastic' female therapist, and started taking antidepressants again (mirtazapine (REMERON)).
Zara was recently diagnosed with dysthymia, which she feels 'explains' how she has felt through much of her life. As well as antidepressants, Zara is undergoing psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and practising mindfulness, as she wants to 'recover' for the 'benefit' of her family.
Zara believes adjusting to parenthood is 'confronting' for 'older, educated' women due to 'really skewed' values around motherhood. However, she feels 'optimistic' about the future and 'lucky' to have an 'emotionally intelligent' husband and supportive parents. She advises other mothers experiencing intrusive thoughts not to be afraid, and 'seek help and support as soon as you think something's amiss'.