Brooke Shields speaks out about PND, an illness which one in ten women will suffer from. Here’s our health report.

Brooke’s story

Brooke Shields contemplated suicide when she first became a mother. The actress – who has two daughters, Rowan, six, and three-year-old Grier, with husband Chris Henchy – suffered from severe postnatal depression.

Speaking about Rowan’s birth – which followed a miscarriage and seven IVF attempts – Brooke said: “I finally had a healthy beautiful baby girl and I couldn’t look at her. I couldn’t hold her and I couldn’t sing to her and I couldn’t smile at her… All I wanted to do was disappear and die.

“I should not exist. The baby would be better off without me. Life was never going to get better – so I better just go.”

Brooke, 44, was described medication for her depression but stopped taking it, thinking she didn’t need it, which resulted in almost fatal consequences.

Speaking on Monday (16.11.09) in New York, where she was receiving an advocacy award from the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, Brooke revealed to People magazine: “That was the week I almost did not resist driving my car straight into a wall on the side of the freeway. My baby was in the back seat and that even p***ed me off because I thought she’s even ruining this for me. I just wanted to drive into the wall and my friend stayed on the phone with me until I got home safely.”

Brooke later called her doctor to ask for more help, and was eventually diagnosed with a chemical imbalance.

She revealed: “I learned what was going on inside my body and what was going on inside my brain. I learned I wasn’t doing anything wrong to feel that way. That it was actually out of my control.”

The reality

One in 10 women will experience PND while pregnant. Psychologist, Dr Highet, said there was confusion between postnatal depression and the baby blues, where women felt teary and emotional for up to 10 days after giving birth.

The baby blues, which affected up to 80 per cent of women, were triggered by hormonal changes and disappeared quite quickly. But postnatal depression did not disappear on its own and needed treatment.

“The faster you detect it and treat it, the faster the woman recovers. It’s also easier to treat mild or moderate depression than when it becomes severe.”

It is estimated that between 40 to 70% of women who experience postnatal depression, will start to notice signs before their baby is 3 months old.

However, postnatal depression can start at any time up until the baby is 12 months old, and in some cases the signs of depression can start in the weeks before the baby is born.

Dealing with PND

– Don’t ignore your feelings. Pay attention to your body, moods and mind and any changes.

– Seek out the help of family, friends and your partner. Do not suffer in silence. Communicate how you are feeling and let people help you.

– See your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and get the right information from sites such as www.birth.com.au and www.beyondblue.org.au

– Join a support group such as www.babybumps.com.au

– Eat regularly and healthily, get as much sleep as you can, get outdoors in the fresh air and catch up with friends who make you laugh.

– Be kind to yourself and don’t do unnecessary housework.

– Know that you are a good mother and you will be okay. The vast majority of women who suffer from postnatal depression recover in time.

Does anyone have any advice or experiences to share?

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