Actress and singer Sheridan Smith has taken part in a fly-on-the wall documentary as she prepared to become a mum for the first time.
The The Royle Family and Gavin & Stacey star, 39, and her partner Jamie shared their journey of first scans, pre-natal classes and therapy sessions, as they explored the complex issue of pregnancy and mental health.
It is thought that as many as a third of women experience mental health issues before and after a birth. Sheridan, who has had huge success in the West End, hopes that sharing her own personal experiences will encourage others to seek help if they need it.
“I wanted it to be an educational documentary, not like a reality show,” she says. “But yes, of course I do speak about my own personal journey in it. Hopefully just to help others. In fact, I speak about things I have never spoken about before and I’d never spoken to my family and loved ones about, other than in this documentary.
“So there are things revealed that I’ve never felt it the right time to say, or I’ve been ashamed or embarrassed to say before. But I thought, if I’m going on this journey for other women too who feel like that, then I need to be completely honest about what’s happened in my life.”
Sheridan and Jamie welcomed their little boy into the world shortly after filming finished and lockdown began.
“Yes – he was born in lockdown and also we did the first seven weeks of his life in lockdown
and we had no-one else,” she explains. “But it was a blessing in a way because you would normally lean on the grandparents and get help and because he came early and was so tiny, I think I would have just said, ‘Argh – everyone help me!’.
“But we were on our own and just had to get on with it and were thrown in at the deep end. And now he’s thriving and he’s like a real little chunky monkey, and the fact we’ve achieved that and we’ve got him to three months and he’s thriving, he’s healthy, the paediatrician’s thrilled with him.”
During filming, Sheridan learns how her own struggles could be linked to past traumatic events – such as the death of her brother – which often come to the surface in pregnancy. She meets a psychiatrist who specialises in mental health during and after pregnancy who estimates that one in three women suffer mental health issues during this time.
She also visits a charity-run group which provides crucial, emotional support for other mums-to-be, and attends a special coffee morning run by an organisation that helps thousands of new parents.
“I’m from a generation that didn’t know anything about mental health. You just get on with it and my mum’s very much of the view that everyone’s going through something and she’s right. She’s instilled in me that you’ve got to carry on and there’s always people worse off than you… I think little things that I hadn’t realised how big they were deep down and I pushed them down. Like everyone does. And eventually you explode. You can’t keep pushing it down forever.”
- Sheridan Smith: Becoming Mum is on Tuesday, September 1 at 9pm on ITV’