Sonia Sly investigates the issues around perinatal depression in New Zealand and talks to a group of women whose lives have been affected by postnatal depression.

It has been a long road for Xanthe.

It has been a long road for Xanthe. Photo: RNZ/ Sonia Sly

Age: 30

Diagnosis: Diagnosed with postnatal depression and PTSD three weeks after her baby was born, currently suffers from depression.

Symptoms: In the beginning symptoms included insomnia, very low mood, suicidal feelings, lack of emotions, replay of the traumatic imagery from the birth, lack of connection with her baby, extreme anxiety and tiredness.

Children: One child age 6 years.

Her story:

"I ended up with a fourth degree tear, which was sutured and then undiagnosed. I [had] to have surgery nine weeks after my daughter was born—reconstructive surgery. It left me unable to pick my daughter up and that was so heartbreakingly painful.

It was [also physically] painful sitting down, moving, walking. I felt really disabled by it … I was disabled by it. 

There was a bit of a blurry line as to post-traumatic stress. When I looked on Wikipedia it just didn’t seem to fit, but I guess looking back now childbirth and some of the traumatic things that can happen in childbirth is like going to war.

Postnatal depression - Xanthe

Photo: Supplied

At times I just felt like everyone would be better off without me, that I was just this weight dragging everyone down and I felt like no one could help me. It was really dark. I felt like the black dog was there to stay and it wasn’t going to get any better.

I felt suicidal only a few times, it was incredibly scary and I’ve only ever told one other person.

Looking back at it you feel so isolated. Even though there are people around you don’t feel like they understand.

I lost a huge amount of confidence; I didn’t feel like I was in control at all–I was completely out of control. I was on this fast train, there were no brakes, and my family was on there too.

It was a really big shock because you just don’t know what’s going on. I didn’t want to admit that something was seriously wrong with me [and] that I was that sick.

It’s holding on to the small things, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day."

*Name changed due to the sensitive nature of the story.