It’s the women’s health issue people know of, but not nearly enough about.
Mothers often cite high and lows when they talk about their post-birth experiences, but for some new mums, the lows are far too often downplayed and even overlooked. Post-natal depression is a sorely misunderstood topic, and the fact that it’s a reality for so many women is a glaring prompt for change.
Hayden Panettiere, the 26-year-old star of TV’s Nashville, has raised her voice on the generally avoided subject. In an eerie instance of art imitating life, Juliette Barnes, her character on the show, experienced very similar struggles with the condition, meaning that Panettiere could “very much relate” to the role.
It’s widely assumed that being in a depressive state post-partum means that a mother will harbour feelings of resentment and violent inclinations towards her child. While some mothers experience this and it’s a harrowing place to be, Panettiere makes it clear that she has never had these thoughts.
“You don’t realise how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on”, she says. She also wants to see a wider conversation started about the issue: “It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal.”
In terms of more local statistics, around 10 to 20 percent of women experience post-natal depression, which is not to be confused with the mostly fleeting ‘baby blues’ which, contrastingly, affects up to 80 percent of new mothers, according to Information for parents after the birth from the Redland Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital. Where the baby blues is characterised by weepiness and irritability that disappears soon after giving birth, post-natal depression is a deeply affecting hormonal swing that drives a persistent low mood, extreme anxiety, confusion and panic, difficulties in sleeping or excessive sleeping, changes in eating habits, inability to enjoy anything or cope with routine tasks, feelings of wanting to harm her baby or herself.
This state can remain with a sufferer long after the birth of her baby, Panettiere herself has been grappling with the condition since her daughter Kaya was born in December last year. According to PANDA, some 50 percent of women will continue to experience symptoms two years after their diagnosis. These parameters will vary depending on the treatment being received. Mothers with post-natal depression can seek help from medical professionals such as midwives, GPs and child health nurses.
Panettiere stresses the importance of understanding the condition in order to most effectively help those who suffer from it: “It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable. It’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support.”
With the right support, which she seems to be currently getting from her fiancée Wladimir Klitschko, a woman affected by post-natal depression can overcome the condition and even embrace the prospect of expanding her family, as Panettiere would like to do in the future. “I would love to have a big family … I always said four, but I’m not gonna speak too soon. One at a time.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing post-natal depression, contact PANDA to receive professional support on 1300 726 306 from Monday to Friday between 10am and 5pm.