Little Mango was born inside the Mother and Baby unit of Starship Hospital two years ago.
During the pregnancy of my third son, I suffered from Post Natal Anxiety and Depression. It was a lingering illness that started small during my pregnancy and spiraled out of control after my son's birth. There were so many opportunities for me to get help and each time I was let down.
I expressed my concerns to midwives through my pregnancy, I went to several doctors and to a close family member who told me to "pull myself together," and another doctor who bluntly said "what do you want me to do?" when I turned to her as a sobbing mess.
I reached out for help down so many avenues and was told to go home and relax or harden up. The lack of help, lack of education, and lack of hope left me lost and confused. If there was no help for me out there, what was I to do? My story could have ended so badly, like some do. And that's just not good enough!
I reached breaking point before I got the help I needed. I was so mentally exhausted from lack of sleep and all that was going on that my body stopped functioning. I couldn't concentrate to have a conversation, I couldn't eat or sleep, let alone look after my newborn baby and other children. I got help eventually, but did it need to get to that point? And what if I hadn't pushed for help?
Our mothers are the core of a family - when they're broken, the whole household is broken. It's not good enough.
Thankfully, I was referred to Starship, and helped to get back on track and look after my baby while I recovered.
While talking to the nurses in hospital, I had an idea. I had been making my own natural deodorant for a few years and always thought it would be a good business idea, but I never had the confidence to take it any further. I decided that if anything good was to come out of this situation, this was going to be it. I put all my fears aside and jumped into it. Little Mango became a huge part of my healing and a tool to help me recover.
If you're a mum not feeling right - I want you to know you're not alone. Don't be ashamed. Push until you are listened to.
Sunday investigates Post Natal Depression in NZ, and what help is available
We're expected to be excited about pregnancy, to be thrilled with our newborns. But for thousands of New Zealand women, motherhood can be a cruel reality.
Postnatal depression and perinatal disorders are a major issue in Aotearoa, with up to a quarter of all new mothers suffering. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of maternal suicide in the western world, 7 times the rate of the UK. If post natal depression is left untreated, serious harm can result to parents and their children.
So why is it so difficult to find help?
Watch the Sunday episode here:
Sarah shared her experience with Sunday
Sarah Hyndman is a mother-of-three and entrepreneur. She's open about her perinatal anxiety - a struggle that saw her admitted to hospital two years ago - but in her interview for Sunday, she smiled her way through difficult questions.
“I find it hard to go back to that place, you know?” she says. “I don't like to get emotional about it. I block it out.”
The place she struggles to go back to was her rock bottom two years ago.
“I had to get to the point where I was having really bad thoughts before anyone would help me.”
After the birth of her first child, Sarah started to feel crippling anxiety. She was too scared to drive, had trouble getting to sleep, and often felt like her throat was closing up.
She visited her doctor five times.
“They knew I’d just had a baby but said, ‘oh it’s just anxiety. Lavender baths will help.'”
When she had her third baby several years later, the anxiety was so severe, she would go days at a time without sleep.
“I went absolutely crazy. I couldn’t hold a conversation, I couldn’t follow along. I was scared to look after my baby because I knew I wasn’t OK.”
One weekend, after a long stretch of insomnia, Sarah’s husband took her to a walk-in clinic.
“The doctor sat me me down and I just burst into tears and explained the whole thing and how I was feeling.
“I clearly remember the doctor looking at me and saying ‘OK, well, this is a walk-in clinic and I don’t have the time to go through all of this with you ... what do you want me to do?’”
Sarah was crushed, believing she just had to pull herself together and deal with it. All hope of help had gone.
A Maternal Care Action Group NZ survey of 226 mothers with perinatal disorders revealed 43% felt their GPs were unhelpful or average. Mothers said their doctors didn’t always have the time to delve into mental health issues, didn’t know what to do, or appeared uninterested.
Sarah spiralled downward fast. She hid away from her family in a room at her mum’s house, sitting alone in the dark for hours.
Her mum took her to the emergency department, desperate for someone to help her daughter. Sarah was given sedatives and sleeping pills.
But by that point, Sarah was too far gone. She felt delusional. Thoughts of ending her life crept into her head, and one night in desperation, she called the hospital for help.
“Once I’d gotten to the point where I’d given up, then I started to get support. That’s not OK.”
Sarah and her one-month old son were admitted to the Mother and Baby unit at Starship Hospital - one of two inpatient facilities in New Zealand for mothers suffering from severe cases of perinatal disorders. There are just three beds available in Auckland.
Sarah says the care she received in hospital was “incredible”, crediting her recovery to the patient and experienced staff.
But she also says it didn’t have to get as bad as it did. If she’d known about perinatal disorders, if midwives had recognised the signs, if doctors had listened to her, she believes she could have avoided hospitalisation.
Information on Perinatal Mental Health:
Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoa: (04) 461 6318 or visit pada.nz
Mothers Matter: Visit mothersmatter.nz
Father and Child: Call/ text 021 892 980 or visit fatherandchild.org.nz
Where to get help for Post Natal Depression:
Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
Healthline: 0800 611 116
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.