Pre/Post Natal Depression Early Development


Age Group 20 – 35

Contacted PND health organisations for future participation (see Research folder: Pre/Post Natal Depression):

  • Pre and Post Natal Depression Advice and Support

Update 07/12: Received response from PNI, have forwarded my earlier advertising campaign imagery to them. They want to get involved with latest project and have published my advertising image onto their facebook website to get volunteers involved (email corres in folder).

I felt that looking into the bracket age group 20 – 35 I had to consider what life milestones are largely involved within this age range. I then considered that many people have children within this age group and that post natal depression is a mental illness that has particular assumptions and a lack of scientific research within it. For this reason I feel this is a good example of showcasing individual stories and to highlight the serious nature of this particular condition.

Research in this area is particularly low yet many consider that 1 in 10 women are effected by PNI (Post Natal Illness) where some research actually considers the number to be 1 in 7 or even 1 in 5.

It is considered that only those suffering with PNI or close relatives or partners have any particular interest in the causes, symptoms effects etc… Those who have no affiliation, including me are indifferent and are not particularly interested in the subject matter.

PNI is an illness that is easily hid and most women confine the distress within their own home. Due to this there is no great advance in society or media coverage of this illness and one that intrigues me further.

PANDAS the pre and post natal depression advice and support organisation describe how instead of a joyful and happy time full of excitement, sufferers of PNI consider it to be a nine month tunnel of doom, anxiety and despair. This description is a particularly interesting consideration of how those feel and something I will explore.

Causes can often be broken into three main areas; physical, emotional and social.

The physical effects have a dramatic impact on a women’s body and this can have an effect on an individuals confidence and self esteem. Constant exhaustion, sensitive bladder and hormone levels.

A life change such as the birth of a child can have an emotional impact; mood swings and depression can be considered to be enhanced by hormones. Anxieties are also common and can bring the sufferer with worry and fear about being good enough;

  • I’ll never make a good mum
  • My partner is going to leave me
  • I’m terrified of the birth
  • There is something wrong with my baby
  • How will I cope with twins
  • I feel like I am going mad

Looking at providing a series of work that looks at the effect on an individual, it is important to explore personal stories and first hand experience dealing with the condition.

Catherine talks about how incredibly sad she would get, she would become so exhausted from crying that she would then feel GUILTY. Catherine describes how it felt like she was IN A BLACK HOLE, LIKE A WELL. …..NO LADDER, AND YOU JUST CAN’T SEE A WAY OUT, EVER.

It was an art group that eventually helped her through the recovery process.

Another example explores how gradual increases in anxiety and a feeling of not being listened to added to her decline. …… I WASN’T BEING LISTENED TO. ….. DIFFICULTY BONDING WITH MY BABY. She also explains that her expectations furthered her depression, ….. UNFAIRLY HIGH EXPECTATIONS THAT I HAD OF MYSELF. Talking about how the family struggled to understand and provide support when her personality suddenly changed. …..DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO OFFER ME SUPPORT WHEN THINGS CHANGED. She also explored how she felt that public perceptions would possibly effect her moving forward. I THOUGH IT WOULD AFFECT MY CHANCES OF GOING BACK INTO MY JOB. I WAS ALSO WORRIED ABOUT HOW IT WOULD AFFECT MY FRIENDS PERCEPTION OF ME.

Member of PANDAS forum Rachael explains her own story from the moment she found out she was pregnant. I WAS MET WITH PANIC, SHOCK AND I WAS SCARED. I WENT INTO A SHELL. I AM RACHAEL I AM NOT JUST A MUM. 

Before considering how best to develop my own concept I felt it important to look into practitioners that have already tackled the subject in a range of different specialisms and styles, exploring their underlying message and theme.

Shahar is an Israeli illustrator and contributes his illustration towards childrens books, newspapers and magazines.He also creates illustrations for websites and animation projects. His work has been published in France, UK, South Korea, USA, Singapore and other countries.


I really like the tone and visual style of this particular illustration, the colour palette is subdued and really helps to define shadow and space. Elongating the shadow from the cot bars creates a daunting scene which extends to the subject. Using a cot as the overlying object within the work helps to really portray the sense of helplessness that post natal depression sufferers can feel.


251454BD00000578-2926613-Post_natal_depression_is_a_type_of_depression_some_mothers_exper-a-50_1422273621627 2514577500000578-2926613-A_new_study_carried_out_at_the_University_of_North_Carolina_has_-a-49_1422273588335

These two particular images are taken from an article published by the daily mail. It explores the issues surrounding post natal depression before and after pregnancy. Shadows are extenuated through high contrast in post editing, this for me helps to develop the serious tone throughout. The setting is simple and basic in composition yet this draws focus to the central subjects of the images. I particularly like the top image which shows the separation and the feeling that there is no bond or connection. These images maybe too literal for my own concept but it is important to consider how other practitioners have considered the subject matter and produced work through this.

From my research I came across the book Surviving Post Natal Depression from Cara Aitken, in the title it states, “at home no one hears you scream” having explored individual stories it is clear that the home can be seen as a prison and references the hidden aspect of dealing with post natal depression.

This got me thinking about the famous Alien film poster which uses the sub title, “In space no one hears you scream.”. I decided to use this style of imagery and experiment within this theme.


The image is sinister, daunting and dark, simplistic in composition yet it manages to convey it’s theme within a strict colour scheme.

I started to explore objects that are closely associated with birth and infants, I want the main subject to be simplistic yet recognisable to illustrate my concept.

I didn’t want to use an image of an infant as it characterises the piece, the idea is for the image to be other worldly to portray the distance and lack of bond that a mother can feel when going through pre/post natal depression so decided on a foetus.


I decided to experiment with backgrounds, so started by exploring a gradient that offers depth and varying colour tones. I added a vertical gradient with black and blue with a highlight to the central area to add contrast.


Through Photoshop I then added the foetus subject and added a slight shadow for depth and definition. Using a downloaded typeface similar to the movie poster, I decided to use the mental illness as the large title of the piece and having worked on design layout in my previous module created a sub heading to break up the composition.


I then used a smaller typeface for the lower text, which works in contrast to the title.


I then decided to experiment with varying colours for the background. I decided to explore green but it just offsets the image from the rest of the piece and removes any darker tones explored.


I then took found imagery of a cot as I felt that it is a particular object that I can explore further and is a real symbol of pregnancy and new birth.


With these objects I added to the lower part of my image, moving the text upwards. It doesn’t work well, the text appears cramped and the cot appears out of place and disjointed.


I then tried to reduce the opacity and see whether this would help but it still feels rigid and misplaced within the context of the work.


My favourite of these experiments, manages to illustrate the issues surrounding hiding mental issues such as PND and combines the most effective aspects of movie poster propaganda without losing context.


I was pleased with the results of my work yet I still feel that I am not exploring the personal struggles as much as I had hoped. I don’t want to glamorise the condition but illustrate the thought process and emotional state of those effected.

In doing so I hope to create a personal connection between my audience and get them thinking more about the personal struggles of mental illness rather than categorising people.

Within my research the PANDAS support organisation talks openly about how the condition effects people. At one point they are quoted as saying, “it turns into a nine month tunnel of doom, anxiety and despair”

This got me thinking about how I could explore using locations and situations as a visual tool into an emotional state. I used this quote on a found image of a darkened tunnel. The image is direct and provides a first person perspective which draws you into the location and really provides a sense of the emotional state and thought process.


I then used the Aitken’s text and placed into the scene. It works well in providing a link with the text and background image but seems a little flat and distant.



I increased the size of the text so it was clear and used the space. Unfortunately it takes away from the image behind and still feels separated from the emotional state that the picture compliments.


I altered the typeface using lowercase lettering to resemble a quote making it more personal, this worked yet the large text doesn’t compliment.


The text is smaller and a more dynamic typeface yet still doesnt match the scene and lose the concept of work.


I decided to explore adding perspective to the work and split the text, to hug the confined walls. I excluded the word tunnel as it fits nicely between the space and helps to merge both text and image. It is more immersive and draws the eye line complimenting the claustrophobic confines of the tunnel.


Tried a different text with capitals, isn’t as personal, struggle to read the text.


I am really encouraged by this development work and feel like this idea of combining personal text and location shots that can illustrate this further is an effective way to portray my concepts.


Having been in regular contact with the PNI organisation, they have been discussing how women feel on a personal level and what they appear to show to society when inside they are suffering.

Monica who works for has already advertised my project to the many followers on their facebook site, encouraging those who wish to be heard or tell their story to be involved. They used my earlier advertising poster from the previous module to help show the style of work that will be explored.

In an email dated 07 December 2015, Monica kindly gave me some advice for consideration when exploring this subject area (transcript is available within research folder under Pre/Post Natal Depression).


Just a thought – many women suffering from pni put on a mask to the outside world pretending they are OK, yet inside they are crumbling/suffering and desperate for help. Just a thought…maybe an idea for your illustration

This got me considering how I could use this within my own development. I attended a studio photography session at Hollymoor Centre, Birmingham on 19 December 2015, (evidence of this is available within blog post: Work Experience & Future Development and folder sub category).

I discussed the idea with the model and she was happy to be involved. We started by shooting a range of images in differing poses for me to consider later on in post editing.

Slightly unnatural and doesn’t seem to appear serious enough to illustrate concept. (1/125, F8, ISO 100)


Too positive in the facial expressions and head held high counteracts my ideas. (1/125, F7, ISO 100)


Hand across the neck seems to show a confidence that I don’t want to represent in my work. (1/125, F8, ISO 100)


Image has a negative outlook, low head and thoughtful expression. (1/125, F8, ISO 100)


Once I was happy with one particular image I decided to focus in on the facial features to fill the frame and to give focus to my concept, this was done using Lightroom.


I decided to use a black and white filter on the image to add a serious tone to the piece, I then used Photoshop to restrict colour only to the mask, this represents a separation of the object and subject which I feel works particularly well on a visual and conceptual level. I then took extracts from my research from personal stories, and the one that drew me in was “The agony just beneath the surface”, this lends itself well tot the concept of hiding behind a mask.

I then decided to experiment with the text considering, typeface, composition, opacity and size.

This particular example I decided to use the subtle tones of the mask colour to use within my text by using the eyedropper tool, I chose to use a Bell MT Italic typeface that has a natural structure and seems personal. I then used the contours of the face to position my text. I was really pleased with the results and it manages to compliment the image without appearing to flat and structured.


I decided to use the same typeface as the previous, yet instead explored other areas of the image, I chose to use a white text to contrast against the dark hair. I felt that this took away from the image and restricts the viewers eye away from the subject.


I then wanted to explore using the text in a larger size and experiment with the opacity. I chose to change the typeface to Arial Bold at 60pt, I positioned this to the lower right of the piece and changed the opacity to 21% and fill to 67% to remove any harsh tones and so that it wouldn’t take away from the subjects eyeline, it appears chunky and somewhat out of place.


Using the same typeface and font size I decided to position this centrally and again reduced the opacity and fill to counter the full shape of the lettering, again this seemed a touch out of place and is unclear.


I am really pleased with this developing work as I have now started to consider visually the emotional impact instead of the subject of the illness.


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