Local author shares her harrowing experience of perinatal distress

Approximately 1 in 3 families are affected by PND in South Africa, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)
Approximately 1 in 3 families are affected by PND in South Africa, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)
“Oh God, I screamed internally. Oh God, someone stop the clock please! I don’t want this! I thought I did. I hoped and prayed and tried and worked hard to conceive this baby, but it was all a terrible mistake and I can’t do this anymore and I’ll never be the mother this child deserves, so we’re all screwed.
I hated myself for what I’d done to my family. I’d created two huge burdens for them – the baby, and myself.”

 - Extract from Through the Window: How I Beat PND by Lauren Shapiro. 

It’s not something most people want to talk about. Mental illness in general is still a taboo topic in many circles, but depression during pregnancy – what is supposed to be one of the biggest blessings and happiest life events – is even more unspeakable, says journalist and mother Lauren Shapiro. 

Also read'If it weren't for my husband and my mom I'm not sure how I would've survived': The A-Bundlely Blessed Diaries #3

"Until now, it’s been swept so far under the carpet that most people weren’t even aware that it was possible. Well, let me tell you: it’s a thing.

What used to be called Post-Natal Depression is now being re-termed Perinatal Distress as psychiatrists recognise that it can occur both during and after pregnancy, as either depression or debilitating anxiety.

But I didn’t know that when, during the first trimester of my planned and prayed-for pregnancy, I found myself sinking into a deep pit of despair that threatened to consume me.

Joy bled out of my life. Fear took its place. I cried constantly and suffered from severe panic attacks.

I told myself it would pass. My psychologist told me it would pass. But instead of improving, it got worse. I realised something was very, very wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

One hospitalisation, two medical professionals, many months of therapy and several psychiatric drugs later, I mercifully made it out the other side.

Nobody speaks about Perinatal Distress (PND), and so it continues to tear apart lives and families across our nation. Approximately 1 in 3 families are affected by PND in South Africa, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). That translates to around 50 000 women per year.

Also read: Ubuntu Baba founder shares her truth about post-natal depression

I tried to talk to my family and friends about what I went through, but how could they possibly understand? How could I fully explain it? So I decided to write a book, immersing readers in the complete journey through PND, from pre-pregnancy to full recovery.

As I was finishing the first draft, I happened to join a bookclub. None of us knew each other very well, so we gave short introductions: “I’m Lauren, I have three kids, I’m a journalist and I’m writing a book.”

Of course, they wanted to know what it was about. “It’s about my experience of PND,” I responded with false confidence. It’s hard to put that out there about yourself, especially to virtual strangers. There was an awkward silence, then one lady confided, “I had that too.”

“That’s the thing,” I said, capitalising on her honesty. “It’s actually so common, but no one talks about it. And if we don’t talk about it, we can’t support each other. I mean, statistically,” I continued, doing a rough head-count around the room, “there should be at least one more of you who’s suffered from it.”

Slowly, silently, not one but two other hands went up. Right then, I knew I had to see the project through."

Find a copy of Through the Window: How I Beat PND here

Chat back:

Share your story with us, and we could publish your letter. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

Read more:

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 955 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
53% - 5247 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 3345 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 323 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.