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Mother talks about postnatal depression and tells other mums: 'Stop beating yourself up'

Around one in 10 mothers suffer from postnatal depression, according to NHS statistics.

Here, one mum, Sarah Heywood from Bristol, tells ITV News how she beat the condition.

Sarah Heywood with her son Gabriel. Credit: ITV News

Mums must learn to be kind to themselves

Not everyone gets a huge rush of love for their baby when they give birth.

The cultural mythology around this is so powerful that if you don't get this dizzying, intoxicating feeling, it can feel almost impossible to admit it.

When my son was finally dragged out of me (after 26 hours of labour, a late epidural, two failed ventouse attempts, one failed forceps before eventual successful forceps delivery) and safely plonked on my chest, I felt relief, awe, gratitude that he was okay, utter shock and numbness, but not a rush of love.

Gosh, the guilt. I didn't know what was wrong with me.

I now realise there was nothing wrong with me. I felt the only way I could feel, given what I'd just been through - we must learn to be kind to ourselves.

Sarah with Gabriel, who was safely delivered after 26 hours in labour. Credit: ITV News

You don't have to love every bit of parenting

Be aware of all the messages subtly bombarding new mums about how they should feel.

It seems to be stitched into people's concept of motherhood that good mums have no personal needs - that they should always, always put their children first, that pre-baby, they may have had a vibrant social life, a rewarding job, nourishing time to themselves, but that 24/7 caring for the needs of a tiny, outraged, completely helpless dictator should replace all of those things and fill them with non-stop joy.

Mums are just women, and all women are different.

Each woman is most likely going to find some phases of child-rearing more rewarding than others. And that's okay. You can be a terrific mum and not love every bit of parenting.

Sarah says it took her eight months to realise she had a problem. Credit: ITV News

Stop beating yourself up and do the best you can

Stop beating up on yourself. AT ONCE. You are doing the best you can.

It is really hard learning the all-consuming new skill of parenting, at a time when you probably feel the physically worst you've ever felt - like having to train to be a brain surgeon while being waterboarded.

Ignore how well other mums appear to be dealing with motherhood. It is not a reliable indicator of their mental health.

I had a full face of make-up and blow-dried hair every time I went out with my son for the first year.

I was smiley and serene and apparently absolutely fine, because I was so determined to be the mum I felt my son deserved...and it was the worst year of my life.

I could see people thinking 'Isn't she coping well?' and all I could think was, *maniacal cackle* 'NOT COPING! NOT COPING!'

Sarah is now pregnant again with twins. Credit: ITV News

Admit you may have a problem

It's kind of important to realise that it's not normal to wake up every morning dreading the day and wondering if it's possible to actually die from unhappiness - I felt like I was living behind grey glass.

If you feel dreadful, I implore you to complete the Edinburgh postnatal depression questionnaire http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Postnataldepression/Pages/Diagnosis.aspx

Answer the questions honestly and if your score is higher than 10 out of 30, find someone sensible that you trust and tell them.

I scored a whopping 22 out of 30 and still managed to convince myself that I was just extraordinarily tired and it was all part of being a new parent.

It's not. It took me eight months to admit I had a problem, and all that time I could have been getting help.

People were so very kind to me once they knew what I was struggling with.

An ITV News/Mumsnet poll suggested a third of women do not seek medical help. Credit: ITV News

What works for one woman may not work for you

Getting better is not a cookie-cutter thing - a solution that works for one woman won't be appropriate or effective for another.

I was adamant I wasn't going to take anti-depressants.

In the end, a deeply strange complementary therapy treatment called Emotional Freedom Technique fixed me in one session, to my complete astonishment.

But I know women who have got better with counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, as well as those who have been helped by medication.

The right way forward will appear, somehow, and you will be happy again.

Hell, I'm now pregnant with twins so that's kind of proof I came through it enough to want to do the whole baby lark again.

Life is tough, and some days are so stressful, but that's okay, because alongside the rubbish bits there is joy and daftness and Downton and Christmas angels and lovely cheese.

The grey glass is gone, and I know I can survive and thrive. You will too.

Take the step of admitting things are awful. Do it today.

These are the views of Sarah Heywood and do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

Symptoms of postnatal depression usually occur around six months after giving birth. Credit: PA

Postnatal depression is a type of depression which some women experience after having a baby.

It affects around one in 10 women, with teenage mothers being particularly at risk.

Symptoms can develop anywhere from six weeks to six months after giving birth.

They include:

  • A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • Loss of interest in the world around you
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Feelings of guilt and self-blame
  • Low self-confidence
  • Poor appetite
  • Trouble sleeping

If you or anyone you know needs help with postnatal depression visit the NHS Choices website for more information and services in your area.