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Devon woman aims to increase awareness of pre-natal mental health conditions

Natasha Dowling is part of the 12% of women in the UK who have experienced pre-natal depression. Photo: ITV West Country

One woman from Cranbrook near Exeter says she felt so negative about having her second child, she stopped going out of the house.

Natasha Dowling is part of the 12% of women in the country who have experienced pre-natal depression during their pregnancy.

She ended up distancing herself from her family and friends and went on to develop postnatal anxiety.

The mother of two is now encouraging others to seek available help.

When you're pregnant everyone assumes that it's a happy time and, of course, for most women, it is and it certainly was in my first pregnancy and, because I didn't feel excited, I felt really guilty and I felt like I was a bad mum. I didn't want to talk about the baby and I didn't even want to buy maternity clothes. I just didn't want to accept that I was pregnant really so I felt very alone at that time.

– Natasha Dowling

Pre-natal depression, sometimes known simply as PND, is a condition that some people say is not as well recognised as post-natal mental illness.

Early intervention can help, but Natasha was reluctant at first to open up and admit there might be a problem.

Natasha says she doesn't want other women to experience what she did. Credit: ITV West Country

I think, as well, for a lot of women why they don't talk about it is the fear of being judged and also I was scared that someone would take my daughter away, they'd think I wasn't a good enough mum but then I did go and open up to my midwife and it was the best decision I ever made.

– Natasha Dowling

PANDAS, a foundation which offers help and advice to women before and after their baby is born, provided support for Natasha.

The foundation is hosting Pre and Postnatal Depression Awareness Week from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th September to create more awareness around the mental illnesses.

  • 1 in 15 suffer from a mental illness while carrying a baby (prenatal)
  • 13% suffering from prenatal anxiety
  • 12% experiencing prenatal depression
  • Between 2-4% experience OCD
  • 1 in 3 women who experience prenatal depression will go on to develop postnatal depression.

A new survey has found almost three quarters of midwives and health visitors don't think there is enough training surrounding pre-natal mental illness.

Quite a big percentage of particularly midwives are saying that they don't talk to their clients about prenatal mental health as standard because they're not confident, they don't have enough training and they're worried that if the conversation comes up then they are having to try and make up something and not really have the information that they need.

– Tillie Mabbutt, PANDAS Foundation

Some of the symptoms of pre-natal depression include:

  • Chronic anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Incessant crying
  • Lack of energy
  • Relationship worries: worrying their partner may leave once the baby is born
  • Conflict with parents: pregnancy can often stir up emotions regarding their own up bringing
  • Isolation
  • Fear to seek help
Natasha is expecting her third child, after her first two children Elise and Charlie. Credit: ITV West Country

I didn't want another woman to feel the way I felt because you think you're completely alone and it can't be normal then, how I've been feeling, but actually it is quite normal and there are more women than you think who are going through it as well.

– Natasha Dowling

Nor pregnant for a third time, Natasha says she feels she's better armed to deal with any anxiety and says she is happy she made the decision to open up about her depression and get the help she needed.