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Mums get crucial help

CIARA PRATT
Last updated 05:00 02/11/2012
PND
SPEAKING OUT: Sarah Miller, pictured with her son Malachi, suffered postnatal depression three years ago.

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A silent illness affecting New Zealand women will be under the spotlight this month to encourage sufferers to speak out.

Postnatal depression awareness week runs from November 17 to 25 and can cause mothers to feel low and disconnected with their children.

Around 4000 women a year suffer from mental illness during and after pregnancy. Childbirth is listed as the time when women are most likely to suffer from mental illnesses including PND.

Avondale mother Sarah Miller is among mums supporting the awareness week.

Ms Miller had postnatal depression with her first child Felix and says she learned that talking about her feelings helped her overcome the illness.

Felix suffered from reflux and would not put on weight in the first few months.

"I felt like the ultimate failure and felt like I had been starving my baby. I worked myself into such a state and couldn't understand why this was happening to me.

"I think it's the fact a lot of mothers are embarrassed about it too which is why they don't speak about it."

Finding a forum online helped Ms Miller to discuss her feelings and talk with other mum's who were also suffering from PND.

"I think it is really important for women to talk about this so they know they don't have to hide. That was a really big thing for me. Once you start talking about it you realise how many other women have the same feelings," Ms Miller says.

Ms Miller says an awareness week recognising PND will be a big support to women who suffer from the illness.

"I think it's a fantastic idea and a great way to get women talking.

"Why should we hide that this happens?"

Mother of three boys Meegan Hirst experienced postnatal depression with her second and third children.

She says she struggled at first to recognise the feelings she was having after a "dream experience" with her first baby.

"My second child was a blind reflux baby which wasn't diagnosed. So at three-months-old he was crying all the time and really unsettled.

"I was so sleep deprived and emotionally drained I felt like I was just surviving," Ms Hirst says.

She was diagnosed after six months and was put on anti-depressants.

"I was always able to cope with situations and my first baby had been a dream but the pressure and high expectations I put on myself meant that it was harder for me to accept this was how I was feeling."

Ms Hirst became involved with The Postnatal Distress Support Network Trust after her experience with her second child to help other women with the condition.

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"With most women it can be embarrassing and others feel shame and failure that they are not a good mum if this is how they are feeling."

The Mothers Helpers Christian Charity works with mothers dealing with PND by offering help such as counselling services, support groups, childcare/housework assistance, mentors, and other practical help.

Mothers Helpers was founded by chief executive Kristina Paterson last year and aims to inform women about postnatal depression, its signs and how they can get help.

"It's a huge issue. They say up to 20 per cent of mothers suffer from postnatal depression but in my experience I think there are many more women who are under-diagnosed.

"The problem is far greater than we think - it can affect the entire family and rob a mother of the joy of the experience of motherhood," Ms Paterson says.

Visit mothershelpers.co.nz for more information.

- Central Leader

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