Living with peri-natal mental health

Mother of two, Kat Anthony, and her GP, Dr Joan Leighton, both agree that asking for help when you’re experiencing depression is one of the hardest things to do.

Kat spent six weeks as an inpatient at Mothers and Babies Mental Health Service after the birth of her second son. She credits the nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital, her husband, and her Pegasus Health GP for helping her get through her severe post-partum depression.

“My GP was awesome in supporting my choices. She helped me access counsellors when I was experiencing post-partum depression after the birth of my first boy,” Kat says.

Dr Leighton, supported Kat from positive pregnancy tests through two children and paediatric care. She has a range of supports and services that she offers mums who might be struggling.

“Some people might just need a chat and others may need support through Plunket or a phone line. Further again, a patient may need a referral to talk therapy or the Mothers and Babies unit.”

When Kat’s youngest child was born, just 15 months after her first, her post-partum depression skyrocketed.

“I was so far removed from reality, I think that is the insidious thing about depression, it lies to you. I believed I could do everything, and I could not ask for help not even from my own husband,” Kat says.

Dr Leighton remembers when Kat’s husband brought them to see her when baby Connor was three weeks old.

“It’s very difficult for partners. People don’t have all the answers and  acknowledging that you need outside help is a very uncomfortable place to be in,” Dr Leighton says.

Within three hours of seeing her GP that day, Kat was admitted into the C- Ward at Princess Margaret Hospital.

“My GP really listened to what Ian and I were saying, she showed us so much respect and understand and leapt into action to help secure the safety of my family, says Kat.

Although Kat still struggles with depression today, she knows exactly where to get the help and support she needs.

“Support is out there, I know first-hand that asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, but if I have one message for mums, mums-to-be or dads, it is that it’s ok to ask for help,” says Kat.

Common Symptoms of peri-natal depression include:

  • Tearfulness, weeping frequently
  • Panic attacks & anxiety
  • Being unable to sleep or feeling exhausted even when you have had sleep
  • No sense of enjoyment
  • Feeling grumpy, irritable or angry
  • Constant worry over your own health or that of your child/children
  • Not feeling any emotion to your baby
  • Thoughts that you may harm your child or a member of your family either accidentally or deliberately
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Feeling numb & lack of emotion
  • Putting on a brave face, or “mask”, to hide how you feel
  • Feeling like a failure and a “bad mother”
  • Feeling of wanting to escape and that your family would be better off without you
  • Self harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings


Where to get help:

  • Your GP can help. They can refer you to other services if more specialised help is needed.
  • 1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
  • Perinatal Wellbeing Canterbury run support groups that are safe and supportive.
  • The Plunket Postnatal Adjustment Programme (PNAP) offers home visits, phone and group support.
Read the full May newsletter here