The royal mom, 36, stepped out in London on Wednesday for back-to-back engagements focusing on postpartum illnesses — the day after she gave a rare speech highlighting the need for children’s mental health support.
Today’s schedule kicked off with a visit to King’s College London, where Kate — wearing her signature perfect ponytail, a blue Séraphine coat and the same floral print Séraphine dress she has worn twice before — stopped by the Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute. Her agenda included visiting the on-site laboratory to receive a briefing on its work on perinatal research before meeting with experts conducting research in perinatal psychiatry.
Meeting with researchers at King’s College, Kate was told how avatars — computer representations of people — are used to help schizophrenic mothers.
“Oh, okay, as in the movie Avatar?” she asked with a small chuckle.
Ian Everall, dean of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, told her, “No, it’s about people hearing voices. They create their own avatar, and they turn to their avatar and say, ‘Stop pestering me,’ and the voices go away.”
Kate replied, “Oh, interesting.”
Mothers suffering psychosis after birth are encouraged to create a computer avatar that looks like their hallucinations, which their therapist controls. They can then talk to the avatar in an effort to get greater control over their mental health problems.
Carmine Pariante, who specializes in biological psychiatry, told the royal mom, “Children born from mothers who were depressed during pregnancy were two to three times more likely to become depressed themselves when they become adolescents.”
Kate asked, “Is that purely just during pregnancy?”
Pariante answered, “It’s purely during pregnancy. If mothers are depressed after the baby is born it doesn’t have this enduring effect.”
Kate’s next stop was at the Mother and Baby Unit at the Bethlehem Royal Hospital, part of South London Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The unit specializes in the treatment of postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis.
The inpatient clinic allows mothers who face mental health challenges to be admitted with their babies in order to minimize the disruption of mother-infant relationship. Kate will have the chance to visit the Unit’s nursery and meet with several patients who are currently undergoing treatment. She will also visit the video therapy room, where she will watch videos of mother-baby interaction used as a therapeutic tool.
Princess Kate, who is expecting her third child in April, opened up about the realities of motherhood last year. She acknowledged that the challenges she has faced since becoming a parent have led her to feel, at times, a “lack of confidence” and “feelings of ignorance.” She then went on to discuss the importance of destigmatizing mental health, in particular, when it comes to new parents.
She also of the expectation placed on mothers to feel “super happy” after they have given birth, saying that the reality can often be the opposite. “One in four of us aren’t.”
“Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said. “However, at times it has also been a huge challenge. Even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not.”
“Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together,” she said. “Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost.”
Kate enjoyed the afternoon and meeting the babies: Afterwards, as she was leaving, she told the hospital staff that she was feeling “very broody.” Good thing she’s set to welcome her third baby in just a few months!