Book review | Recognising Postnatal Depression: A Handbook for Mothers

As I began to page through this book, I kept having to stop and verbalise out loud how much I wish we’d had a copy when I started to experience symptoms of postnatal depression.

But, even in the early days, I was too far gone to read it myself. That’s why I think this book should be required reading for any husband who suspects that his wife isn’t 100%. Or any granny, friend, sister…

Who’s it for?

As the authors say, upfront:

“This book may not be for you. But you may want to read it anyway since we can guarantee that many of the mothers you care deeply about are somewhere inside that rainbow [of reactions to having a baby]. [These include] …antenatal depression, postnatal euphoria, baby blues, postnatal stress, postnatal depression, bipolar mood disorders and postnatal psychosis.”

It’s written by three women: Andy Taub-Da Costa, Paula Levin and Zahava Aarons – two of whom have had postnatal depression and two of whom are mental health specialists.

However, despite the authentic medical and psychological info in the book, its style and tone remain refreshingly ‘real’.  They use ‘yummy mummies’, ‘I’ and ‘we’, ‘throwing in the towel’, etc. Un-scary language.

The book defines postnatal depression, with ways to tell if you have it and what to do if that’s the case. There are true stories from women who’ve beaten it, including Sam Cowen and Deborah Patta.

There’s also a big chapter on psychotherapy (which, together with a brilliant psychiatrist and the right medication, was what saved me). And the book concludes with a chapter on treating postnatal depression ‘spiritually’.

The best part

For me, the strongest element of this book is the way it combines real medical thinking – Wolf, Winnicott, local psychiatrist Dr Rykie Liebenberg and others – with real human experience, in real human language.

The only other book on postnatal depression I’ve read is Brooke Shields’ Down Came the Rain, which I hated. (One of the authors applauds it, but I read it in the midst of my own depression and it helped me not at all.)

Unlike some of the mommies referred to in the Introduction, I’m not a propagandist of ‘blissful motherhood’. I do honestly, unapologetically and (lord help me) publicly admit the hell I went through. But I do this because, when I was in the dark, I thought I was the only one. So, in a sentence, thank G-d for this book.

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