Relief at my baby son’s arrival was shot through with pain and terror. I was so ashamed of my post-birth anxiety, writes mum of one Laura Holgate
Image: Laura Holgate)
Five months ago, I was prescribed antidepressants. Those same five months ago, I gave birth to my son, Arlo.
I’d been suffering from anxiety and obsessive thoughts for a long time, but the traumatic birth and post-birth of my son was what made me realise that I needed help.
On June 10 2021, I was induced at 39 weeks and five days due to having high blood pressure. An allergic reaction to the medicine that was supposed to induce my labour meant that I was contracting as if I was ready to push, but I was actually only 1cm dilated.
Meanwhile, I was in and out of consciousness because of the pain, and the sheer amount of gas and air I needed to control it. This went on for six hours.
I eventually woke to a team of doctors restraining me while they put an epidural in my spine in an attempt to stop the contractions, but nothing worked. All the while, my unborn baby’s heart rate was declining. Next thing I knew, I was being rushed for an emergency C-section.
Thankfully, Arlo was safely delivered. But the ordeal caused my anxiety to skyrocket.
I felt like my body completely failed me during my birth. Even in the first few days of being home with him, I was experiencing intrusive thoughts – I was terrified that something else would happen to me or my baby that would result in us being admitted back into hospital.
This spiral of anxiety led to bouts of paranoia and severe panic attacks, which landed me right back in a hospital setting I was trying so hard to avoid.
I was finally given a diagnosis for my terrifying symptoms: perinatal anxiety and OCD, and I was prescribed Sertraline.
I’d been battling anxiety my whole life, but unless you’re educated properly in mental health, it can be hard to accept that you have a mental illness. It was something I didn’t want to admit to myself at the beginning.
In previous years, I was prescribed antidepressants, but I was so ashamed that I avoided taking them altogether.
The sad truth is, I wouldn’t have hesitated to take a paracetamol if I had a headache, so why did I feel stigma around antidepressants? It wasn’t until I had my son that I recognised that these medications would really help me live my life.
I want to be a better person for Arlo, and that started with me accepting help. But it was Dr Alex’s #PostYourPill campaign which really helped me come to terms with my diagnosis.
I decided to share my own antidepressant story on Instagram because I want to normalise talking about mental health. I’ve only come forward because of the work Dr Alex has done to encourage young people to speak up; he’s given so many of us a voice we didn’t know we had.
If just one person that feels like I do reads my post and relates to it, then I’ve helped someone like me.
I’ve not always been in a place where I can talk about my diagnosis openly, but now is the time to make a difference – Dr Alex has inspired me to do that.
As told to Gabriella Ferlita