In 2014 I gave birth to a beautiful, bright and healthy little boy.

His arrival wasn't smooth though. There were complications and mistakes made and his first week was a blur of hospital and iv lines and flashbacks and hallucinations.  

In fact, the flashbacks and hallucinations didn't leave me when I came home, and compounded by severe sleep deprivation, for months I battled with what I later came to understand as post-natal-post traumatic stress symptoms, which included intense anxiety alongside violent and intrusive thoughts.

On the outside I did everything that needed to be done - I smiled where required for the pictures and my son was always fed and changed and cuddled...

I was paralysed by simple decisions and I couldn't articulate what was going on inside either

To many- I probably seemed fine, but on the inside, I was in turmoil and grieving for the self that I felt I had lost forever. I was paralysed by simple decisions, like whether to turn left or right when taking a walk with the buggy- and bigger decisions like weaning and moving the baby to his own room took weeks of in depth research poring over scientific evidence and papers trying to make the 'right' decision.

I slept poorly even when the baby slept and was unable to relax during the day or if I was the sole care giver around. I hallucinated baby cries in quiet spaces and was so sensitive to noise that even my husband's breathing in the night would potentially wake me and cause me to be on baby alert. My internal noise and thoughts were so invasive and loud that eventually the only way I could sleep was to listen to psalms via an audio book to drown out my own anxieties, and wear ear plugs to drown out minor noise.

I couldn't articulate what was going on inside either, and my internal struggles would hide away or else occasionally show themselves through unusual negativity/anxiety.

My health visitor and GP referred me for counselling

Thankfully, my health visitor picked up on the the traumatic birth story, and a GP also referred me for counselling. I came to understand that the birth had led to post traumatic stress symptoms and postnatal anxiety. Thankfully though, where we live in London, there is a great mental health service, with various levels of talking therapies on offer. I had numerous sessions of cbt over the course of around 5 months, and along with support from my family, and close friends, I was able to enjoy the last few months of maternity leave with my son, and to be recovered in time to resume my work when maternity leave came to an end.

12 months after my son was born, and 8 months after starting CBT, I was a better mother, and a fairly 'functional' tax-paying member of society.

Without the mental health support at the crucial time, I doubt I'd be in the place I am today

I know that there is a gap in maternity mental health services across the UK, and that I am very lucky to have had appropriate care and access to talking therapies when I needed it.

My relatively short experience of severe mental distress, has given me insight into the sufferings of others who battle with these issues for a lifetime. I've also seen in my experience (and in the experiences of friends and family)  how effective therapies can be- and how treating people in a timely way can have very real personal, social and economic benefits.

However, suicide continues to be the leading cause of maternal deaths in the UK- and every year we seem to hear an abundance of stories surrounding the crisis in mental health provision. A 2017 survey by the Royal College of Obstetricians, found that 81% of women surveyed had experienced at least one episode of a mental health problem during or after their pregnancy.  And tragically, only 7% of women with pregnancy-related mental health problems, like those I suffered from, received they specialist care they needed

Hopefully the stories, information and support on Baby Buddy will be a starting point for you

That's why the Maternal Mental Health - Out of the Blue film series by Best Beginnings available in the Baby Buddy app are so crucially important. Baby Buddy didn't exist when I had my son, but when I was expecting my daughter in 2017, even as a second time mum I found the videos and information so helpful. They normalised my experience, making me feel less isolated, and definitely helped me have open and frank conversations about my mental health and talk through my concerns leading up to my second birth.

If you, or someone you know are suffering post-natal mental distress, it's so vital to seek help. There is support out there- you are not alone.

-Maria, Best Beginnings' Parent Panel member