Friday, 18 February 2011

Postnatal depression and the health professionals

Before and after I had my son, as a teacher for children with severe and profound learning difficulties who had worked with nursery children, I felt 'I knew it all' about having a child!

I advised other parents from my knowledge and experience from books about bed wetting, sleepless nights, behaviour, etc. and I knew how to amuse small children. So I was prepared and was going to be a brilliant Mum, wasn't I?

A traumatic birth, my son Dom being critically ill at 4 months old, lack of sleep and pressure to return to work took its toll on me and I slipped into postnatal depression leading to puerperal psychosis. Added to my own feelings of guilt and shame were comments from others such as, 'I am surprised at you - you should know what to do'.

In my presentations over the years I have been amazed by how many health professionals have judged themselves in this way and been judged by others. Midwives left to cope with breast feeding 'because they know how to do it'; psychiatrists being ashamed to say they are suffering from depression as 'they should know how to avoid it'!

Exactly 12 months ago today an amazing nurse, Joanne Bingley, gave birth to her much-wanted daughter Emily Jane. 10 weeks later Joe took her own life, unable to cope with the guilt and shame she felt around issues such as not being able to breast-feed well. Happy Birthday Emily Jane and I will fight as a trustee for the aims and legacy of the Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation:-
  • Raise awareness and de-stigmatise Postnatal Depression, by stimulating open discussion about the illness and its treatment.
  • Provide access to information and support to mums, dads, partners, families, and friends affected by Postnatal Depression
  • Support research to identify the causes of the increasing number of deaths due to Postnatal Depression, examine the key risks and issues that effect sufferers from Postnatal Depression, and what can be done to help them
  • Ensure Medical Services follow appropriate standards and guidelines, and patients know what should be available to them.
Our first newsletter available.

Consequently my heart also went out to this nurse who has been sacked due to taking drugs from hospital, etc. whilst suffering from postnatal depression. Of course I do not condone her actions but I do understand and wish measures were in place through better training, awareness, sensitivity and services to stop this happening.

Elaine Hanzak

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