Overcoming Postnatal Depression

Caitriona and her family

As we recently learned from Irene Lowry, CEO of Nurture Health, postnatal depression is incredibly common. An estimated 18,000 Irish women are diagnosed every year, while up to 6,000 experience depression during their pregnancy. Mum-of-two Caitriona Scanlan suffered with the condition following the birth of her second son Edward, and credits Nurture with helping her through this tough time.

Dealing with Trauma

For Caitriona, motherhood came relatively naturally the first time around. “I fell into being a mammy to Patrick straight away”, she recalls. "I was a dab hand at changing nappies, getting feeds sorted, dressing him.” However, during her second pregnancy, she experienced a couple of traumatic events. “Firstly, we were just getting over my mam having cancer”, she explains. “She’s fine now, but I realised my parents aren’t untouchable.” Around that time too, her grandad sadly passed away, something she knows now she didn’t totally process. “When you have children, things like being able to grieve properly don’t feel normal, because as much as I wanted to teach the boys that it’s ok to cry, I felt like I had to be the strong person.”

parents and baby

Warning Signs

On top of these traumas, Caitriona just felt... different. “There were a few red flags that I probably should have picked up on”, she notes. “Everyone was so excited, and I just didn’t feel it. I loved my bump, but it just wasn’t the same.” Having a toddler to look after made it more difficult for her to sit back and take stock too. “It’s funny when you’ve got another child at home. There were only a handful of times that I remember sitting down and really enjoying feeling kicks. I was just so busy with being a mam already.”

Initial Symptoms

Adjusting to life with two little boys was difficult, and Caitriona found it hard to settle into a routine. “We decided one of us would sleep downstairs with the baby, so as not to wake Patrick”, she recalls. “But it got to a point over a couple of weeks where I was filled with dread whenever it was my turn. It was overwhelming - I told my husband Keith, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

sad woman at window

Feeling Numb

Postnatal depression can manifest in many ways, and women may not have suffered any issues previously. “I was oblivious to mental health before all of this”, says Caitriona. “To be in that situation is quite terrifying.” Rather than appearing outwardly distressed though, Caitriona felt numb and disconnected from her family. “When Keith went back to work six weeks after Edward was born, I felt nothing”, she says. She continued to struggle, eventually battling suicidal thoughts. “I never wanted to hurt the kids, but I had so many thoughts of harming myself. I thought they’d be better off without me.”

Reaching Out

It was Caitriona’s sister who found Nurture’s details and convinced her to get in touch. Thanks to the organisation’s no-wait policy, vulnerable women are quickly seen to. “I reached out and within a week, was speaking to Debbie, my counsellor”, says Caitriona. She’s quick to credit these sessions with saving her life. “Without Nurture, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. They’re a vital support for women, because generally, people are still terrified to talk about postnatal depression. I would feel like such a weight was being lifted off my shoulders after I’d spoken to Debbie.”

What Nurture Offer

Do you think you or your partner might be suffering symptoms of perinatal or postnatal depression? Nurture’s service is available to men and women, is ‘affordable, immediate and accessible’, and they have professionally trained counsellors available all around the country. What’s more, they’re an Irish Life Health partner, and contributions towards their services are covered under selected plans. So, don’t suffer in silence – get in touch today.

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