top of page

My Personal Experience of Perinatal Mental Illness

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week - 2024

*Content warning - preeclampsia, ptsd, birth trauma and perinatal mental illness

Back in January 2020, my husband and I were thrilled after finding out we were expecting our first little baby. And then came the lockdown in March...

Since I was a teenager I have had ups and downs with depression and anxiety. With so much uncertainty around being pregnant and sheltering due to a medical condition in the lockdown period the anxiety became more and more apparent.

The pregnancy was going great until around 30 weeks when I started showing symptoms of preeclampsia. As a result, I had to be rushed to hospital for an induction.

My husband was not allowed to be with me because of the restrictions, and I remember feeling so alone and afraid that it was too soon to give birth to the little one. I was worried if he would cope being born so soon. I hadn't packed my bag for the hospital, I didn't have a 'birth plan', everything was happening so quickly. 

I remember being in a theatre with lots of people around us, no idea what was going on. They send my husband out of theatre, the emergency button being rung, and feeling like I was drifting in and out of consciousness  into a deep sleep. The only thing I could think about was if my baby was okay and if I was going to live.

When I started to come round, I had no idea what had happened, like being in a dream, I had given birth but I didn’t have my baby with me. I was so unwell after having a postpartum haemorrhage, it was like I couldn't communicate properly.

We were extremely lucky with the special care our son received at SCBU and the next day I got to meet our little one for the first time.

After coming home from hospital the anxiety was overwhelming - worrying about everything, worrying that something was going to happen to our son. I was having nightmares, flashbacks of the birth. The smallest thing could be a trigger. It became clear to everyone around me that I was not well. At the time there was talk of postnatal depression, but things didn't make any sense. I hadn't been able to process anything that had happened to us.

I couldn't understand why I didn't feel like myself? Why didn't I feel on top of the world? And feeling so guilty that I was feeling so low when we had such a perfect little baby. And I remember someone telling her 'it doesn't matter what has happened, your baby is healthy and you are healthy!'

But I was by no means healthy, and felt like something wasn't right. After months of suffering, not wanting to see anyone, afraid to go out of the house I was referred to the Perinatal Mental Health Team and I was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) as a result of a traumatic birth.

At such a fragile time in my life and with a newborn baby, when I needed support, I would never forget the feeling of loneliness. Of course my family was supportive, but I had no way of connecting with other mothers. I had no idea how to start searching.

I started therapy, and the psychologist was great. The therapy was difficult, but I was determined I wanted to get better for the sake of our son and my little family. It was only through receiving therapy that I came to understand what had happened to us and why I felt so mentally unwell.

While I was under the Perinatal Mental Health team I was lucky to have support from a specialist midwife who suggested I follow a baby massage course (online) as research shows that there are positive effects for the mother and the baby when practising baby massage. 

Honestly, after a few sessions it helped me so much - it was certainly a step in the right direction. Every time I massaged the little one I was immersed in the moment and it lifted my spirits seeing him enjoy being massaged.

After about six months, I was starting to see the light and the hope that I could get better with more therapy and time. But due to the health board's guidelines, all the valuable work I had done with the psychologist came to an end on the eve of the little one's 1st birthday. There was no more support available. I had to try to keep getting better, but I still felt lost.

Helping is in my nature (I think that's when I started my career as a primary school teacher.) I went on to study diploma courses in baby yoga and baby massage. This is one of the reasons that Iogis Bach started, so that I could help others, as the baby massage helped me at such a dark time in my life.

Three years later I love the 'work' I do and I am so grateful for all the mothers and parents I have met along the way. Many I am so fortunate to now call friends. Looking back, Iogis Bach has played a big part of my journey to recovery and healing.

Why am I sharing my experiences?

The first time I shared part of my experience publicly was last year when I was invited to an event by Menter Môn and Llwyddo’n Lleol to speak on a panel for freelancers in Gwynedd and Anglesey. I was so unsure about speaking and it was such an emotional experience. But I was so relieved to speak honestly and openly. After this I realised that it is important to raise awareness, by sharing my experience so that others feel comfortable to speak openly, to have confidence to reach out for support and break down the stigma.

Another purpose for writing all this down is to say you're not alone. Please try to talk to someone to say how you feel. There's no shame. There are people that can help. First port of call is your GP. 

I'm always here if anyone wants to talk. I'm not an 'expert' but it could be an ear to listen and speak from experience what has helped me.

Lots of love

Leri x

If you managed to get this far, thank you 💜

80 views1 comment

1 Comment

Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s so important we have open and honest conversations about maternal mental health as support services are not good enough. So pleased that massage and your business continue to help you recover ❤️

bottom of page