Anna Lange (32) and her husband Wojtek have two children – Sophie (5) and Oliver (17 months). The Cork woman suffered from post-natal depression (PND) after both of her children were born but while she was able to cope after her first baby, the second time round was a lot worse and she needed professional help.
"Both of my pregnancies were very difficult and each time I was in a high- risk category," she recalls. "Sophie was two months premature and I spent three months in hospital before she was born with strict bed rest so it was a very tough time.
"I thought at the time that I was doing fine, but it was only looking back that I realised I was merely pretending everything was okay. The reality was that I was hiding how I was feeling and for the first few months I had no motivation to do anything; even getting dressed was a struggle. But I got over it and a few years later, went on to have Oliver.
"His was also a difficult pregnancy and I was told initially that he would be born at around 24-weeks so was once again kept under strict bed rest orders – I spent three months in bed altogether but in the end, I delivered a fine healthy son at 36 weeks.
"But a fortnight after his birth, I realised that I wasn't very well emotionally. I tried to mask it and carried on until he was six weeks old when I had a really big breakdown."
Anna had got used to feeling low but it was only when she took her baby for a developmental check that the severity of her PND came to light.
"The breaking point came when I took Oliver for his six-week developmental check and I broke down in front of the public health nurse – I couldn't stop crying. She contacted the PND support group and my GP and made an appointment for me the following day.
"This was the start of my very long recovery which began with medication and I followed this with joining the support group which was amazingly helpful right from the start. I suddenly realised that I wasn't alone and there were so many other women in the same position as me.
"I also went to marriage counselling with Wojtek as my terrible moods almost destroyed our relationship. After a while, the medication began to work to a degree but although I didn't feel as bad as I had before, I still had no enjoyment in my life – I hadn't laughed in months.
"So my doctor referred me to a psychiatrist at the Mercy Hospital and I also had regular appointments with a psychiatric nurse, who initially came to see me every day. We then went to family therapy and as I began to get stronger, my appointments were reduced to once-monthly and I went on a mindfulness course which helped me stay focused on the here and now and remain positive.
"Life is now really good for me and although I am still not strong enough to go back to my job as a hairdresser – because I am nervous of crowds – I am so much better and getting stronger every day," she adds. "Like everyone, I still have ups and downs, but I have learned to take things one step at a time and try to look for the positive side of everything."