Real life – Post­na­tal de­pres­sion

Post­na­tal de­pres­sion knows no bound­aries and af­fects all, ir­re­spec­tive of so­cial stand­ing, creed or colour – even celebri­ties, writes Pearl Rantsekeng

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

FROM THE OUT­SIDE look­ing in in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Cape Town­based model Lisa Cow­ley (pic­tured left) seem­ingly had ev­ery­thing a girl could ever want.

She lived a life some girls could only dream of – jet­ting off all over the world on work as­sign­ments. And then, a week after break­ing up with her fi­ancé, Lisa dis­cov­ered that she was preg­nant.

“I didn’t want to get back to­gether just for the sake of the child. So I just braced my­self for the hard road ahead of be­ing a sin­gle mom even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” she says.

That was to be the be­gin­ning of a roller­coaster ride of al­most two years in which Lisa had to fig­ure out what was wrong and learn how to em­brace it in or­der to find com­plete heal­ing.

Lisa re­calls how it was only re­cently, after months of see­ing dif­fer­ent doc­tors and psy­chi­a­trists, as well as a lot of re­search and read­ing on her part, that she fi­nally was able to self-di­ag­nose what was wrong with her.

“It dawned on me that I wasn’t crazy. I was suf­fer­ing from post­na­tal de­pres­sion,” she says.


Post­na­tal de­pres­sion, or PND, is a com­mon prob­lem, af­fect­ing more than one in ev­ery 10 women within a year of giv­ing birth. It can also af­fect fa­thers and part­ners, although this is less com­mon.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, about 10 to 13% of women ex­pe­ri­ence an­te­na­tal and post­na­tal de­pres­sion glob­ally.

While in most de­vel­op­ing coun­tries the con­di­tion af­fects 20% of moth­ers, in stark con­trast, more than 40% of South African women suf­fer from the con­di­tion.

It is nor­mal after giv­ing birth for women to suf­fer from a mild form of sad­ness, fear, anger, or anx­i­ety, and more than 80% of women do.

How­ever, if the baby blues don’t go away after a week or two, says WHO, it may sig­nal a more se­ri­ous prob­lem.

Ac­cord­ing to Lisa, ini­tially she as­so­ci­ated her mood swings, de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety with preg­nancy blues and the break-up of her re­la­tion­ship with the baby daddy.

“I thought I had pre­pared my­self well to deal with the roller­coaster ride of emo­tions and even did pla­cen­tal en­cap­su­la­tion,” she says.

Pla­cen­tal en­cap­su­la­tion is the prac­tice of in­gest­ing the pla­centa by the mother after it has been steamed, de­hy­drated, ground and placed into pills, as it is be­lieved to im­part nu­mer­ous health ben­e­fits.

How­ever, says Lisa, when the de­pres­sion lin­gered long after the birth of her beau­ti­ful baby boy Noah Cow­ley (now three years old) she re­alised there was more to this than just baby blues.

“In­stead of be­ing ex­cited I was cry­ing all the time, I be­came more de­pressed and was un­able to bond with my lit­tle boy,” she re­calls.

“What made mat­ters worse was that I was go­ing through this all alone. I did not have the sup­port I needed from my fam­ily. I don’t even think Noah’s dad was aware that I was suf­fer­ing from this,” she re­calls.

Men­tal health port­fo­lio man­ager for Pharma Dy­nam­ics, Shouqat Mug­jenker, says no woman is im­mune to ante- or post­na­tal de­pres­sion.

“De­pres­sion can af­fect new moth­ers in many dif­fer­ent ways and can start a few months be­fore giv­ing birth or at any time within the first year after child­birth and may de­velop sud­denly or over time,” says Mug­jenker.

She says most of the women feel tear­ful and anx­ious within the first few weeks after giv­ing birth which, she adds, is nor­mal and re­ferred to as baby blues.

“How­ever, if those feel­ings of sad­ness and low mood last longer than two to three weeks, it might be post­na­tal de­pres­sion,” she says.


Mug­jenker adds that PND of­ten goes un­di­ag­nosed as symp­toms such as loss of in­ter­est in life, lack of en­ergy, in­creased ir­ri­tabil­ity, per­sis­tent feel­ings of sad­ness, guilt and hope­less­ness are of­ten dis­missed or over­looked.

This is some­thing that Lisa can at­test to as she says it took her more than a year and end­less vis­its to dif­fer­ent doc­tors to fi­nally fig­ure out on her own that she had PND.


“My fam­ily just didn’t get me. They as­so­ci­ated my lack of en­ergy, anx­i­ety, mood swings and de­pres­sion to lack of sleep and be­ing a new mom,” she adds.

Lisa says it was after re­search­ing on the sub­ject and talk­ing to other peo­ple that she re­alised that she was not alone.

“Sud­denly I felt more em­pow­ered and went to see a doc­tor who spe­cialises in PND who then put me on an­tide­pres­sants. After some time she changed and put me on anti-anx­i­ety meds as I started to feel bet­ter.”

She says she also started to find ways of heal­ing by do­ing the things that she loves, which, she adds, is the best med­i­ca­tion one can take.

“I gave my­self a lot of self-care by do­ing the things that I love. I would do yoga, go for a mas­sage, go for walks and at times just take a rest,” she says.

She de­cided to speak about her ex­pe­ri­ence in or­der to raise aware­ness and also help other moth­ers who might be go­ing through some­thing sim­i­lar.

“Women don’t talk about these things and act as if all is well be­cause they are afraid of be­ing judged or seen as fail­ures or that they hate their own child. We need to talk more and stop mask­ing things,” she adds.

Lisa is free to an­swer ques­tions or avail­able to talk to about PND and can be reached on her In­sta­gram han­dle “@Cow­leylisa”. YB

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