Post-natal depression: new book project aims to shine light on harrowing subject


Nicole Watts and her son Walter.
Nicole Watts and her son Walter.

A GIRRAWHEEN mother is looking for fellow sufferers of post-natal depression to contribute to a book she is writing on the experience.

Four years ago Nicole Watts had just given birth to her first child when she felt herself slide into the vortex of post-natal depression.

Ms Watts became overwhelmed shortly after her son Walter’s birth.

“He was very sick, crying constantly and never slept – and so we didn’t sleep,” she said.

“My partner worked away at the time as well, so he left within 10 days of Walter being born.

“I disintegrated very quickly – everything was rushing in my head.

“I thought ‘I can’t do this, I’m not a mum, I can’t breastfeed, I can’t do all of this’.

“I thought ‘I’m going to take my own life’. I thought that was the only way for Walter to get on.”

About 16 per cent of new mums experience depression in the months following the birth of a child.

Symptoms can vary from panic attacks, the development of obsessive behaviours and abrupt mood swings to – in extreme cases – thoughts of self-harm.

Ms Watts said some timely intervention stopped her story from becoming much worse.

She was admitted to the Mother and Baby Unit at King Edward Memorial Hospital, where she got the help she needed to rebuild her life.

“I was just lucky that I had an appointment with a child health nurse and she just gave me the Edinburgh questionnaire (a guide to determine whether a woman is suffering from post-natal depression) and put me straight into hospital,” she said.

“That was a lifesaver for me, but once again it wasn’t so much the therapy and the mother crafting as the fact I was given some sleep and being around other people that had similar sort of feelings.

“It was the kinship I had with those women.”

One of the women Ms Watts met at KEMH, Louise Wood, had a similarly troubling spiral, one that culminated in thoughts of violence.

“I’ve talked about it quite a bit with different people. It’s a bit of a blur now – I’m just really glad to be on the other side of it,” Ms Wood said.

“I’m sure it would help some women to talk about it and to find someone that can relate.

“It’s not easy to go through something like that by yourself.”

Ms Watt’s book aims to recount the experiences of post-natal depression sufferers, which she believes is the best form of therapy.

“It’s about letting women know that they’re not alone. A lot of women suffer post-natal depression but it’s very rarely spoken about,” she said.

“What spoke to me when I had regular depression, as opposed to post-natal, was Andrew Solomon’s book The Noonday Demon.

“It wasn’t how to get better and it wasn’t ‘you should do this’ like all of those instructive books.

“It was basically just people’s experiences and that got me through, just knowing that other people have the same thoughts and the same feelings.”

Women who have suffered post-natal depression and want to be involved in the project can email Ms Watts on astrogirl17@live.com.au.

Anyone who might be feelings symptoms of depression, anxiety or mental illness should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.