Former finance secretary Kate Forbes has opened up about the  "extreme levels of terror” she faced after being diagnosed with postnatal depression following the birth of her daughter. 

The SNP MSP said she couldn't sleep and struggled to hold and bathe Naomi at first because she was scared she would harm the newborn.

In an interview with the Press And Journal, the Highland politician described it as an "intense sadness" that she feared she "would never escape from."

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She told the paper she had been in labour for around 18 hours when all of a sudden she started to lose blood, which caused the room to "fill immediately with lots of staff".

Ms Forbes — who ran in the party's recent leadership contest — said she went "completely white and unresponsive."

Naomi was delivered hours later using forceps.

"You just have that constant sense of fear because you're in chronic pain but you also are desperately hopeful that your baby is safe and at certain points her heart rate plummeted as well," Ms Forbes said.

"To get to the end was just that sense of huge relief. And then she was immediately taken to the special baby care unit because of some particular concerns with her.

"You get that point of huge relief. You've come through the fire and then your baby is taken away from you."

After being in Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for a few days, the pair were able to return home to Dingwall with husband Ali.

The Herald:


“I have never, over my lifetime, had any particular challenges with mental health,” Ms Forbes told the paper.

“We all have highs and lows and periods of difficulty, sadness, grief or anxiety, but this was something totally different.

“To start with, I had insomnia, complete insomnia. I couldn’t sleep a wink. I couldn’t nap. I went days on end being unable to sleep. That was accompanied by quite extreme levels of terror.

“Terror when I was awake and during the day. Fear that something awful was going to happen. I couldn’t really comfortably be anywhere alone in the house for fear.

“But then at night, total night terrors of seeing very visibly somebody causing harm to me or to the baby.

“Then just being wracked by guilt, anxiety, intense sadness, and feeling extraordinarily vulnerable and like I’d caused other people huge difficulty, that I’d wrecked their lives.”

She continues: "When you're in that mental frame of mind, you don't know what the alternative is. You should be so full of maternal happiness and yet I struggled to hold my baby. I couldn't bath her because I was scared I would cause harm. I couldn't sleep.

"I realised there was an element of baby blues that I might have been prepared for but this felt like an intense sadness I would never escape from."

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After speaking to her midwife, Ms Forbes was diagnosed with post-natal depression and received support from her husband and wider family.

 "I don't think my husband had ever seen me in that kind of state," she said. 

Asked if the experience has changed her outlook on life, Ms Forbes told the paper it gave her a "lot more sympathy and empathy with others who go through that".

She adds: "But I am also absolutely stunned by how little understanding, recognition and perhaps investment there is in supporting women through those first few months after giving birth.

"While it is quite a common issue, some stats suggest one in 10 women suffer from PND, some go up to 50%. Despite that, there hasn't been the investment in terms of research, development and so on."

The MSP said her own treatment was "second to none" but she thinks it could help to provide more mental health training to midwives.

She also believes there is a need to end the stigma attached to getting help for post natal depression.

Ms Forbes told the paper: "There's nothing I've done that comes close to the challenges of navigating those first few weeks with a newborn - and that includes stepping in to do budgets last minute or leadership contest."

She described Naomi, now 13 months old, as looking like her dad and acting like her mother.

"Which I'd say is the worst of both worlds," she joked.

"She is a feisty little independent lady who is insistent on walking everywhere without holding anyone's hand. She is full of fun, games and mischief and is going to prove to be a very enjoyable handful for the rest of her life," she said.