FOR many women, giving birth marks the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in their life – but for an increasing number of new mothers, it can also mark the beginning of life-changing mental health issues.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, investigations editor Joanna Morris spoke to one woman about the heartbreaking impact postnatal depression can have.

Within months of giving birth to her first son, Jessica Kirton was suicidal, riddled with health anxiety and suffered intrusive thoughts about killing her child.

“I’d written letters to my parents, my sister and my child, telling them I didn’t want to be here anymore,” she said.

“Living day to day had become an absolute struggle for me and nobody really understands how it affects you.”

The 26-year-old suffered a traumatic pregnancy and birth before a surgical infection left her on the brink of death.

READ MORE: Postnatal depression and the pandemic - stark rise in new mums seeking help

The horrific experiences saw Jessica develop severe health anxiety in the months following her son’s birth.

“I was ringing ambulances every two minutes until I just couldn’t live with it anymore,” she said.

“I became suicidal and on a day-to-day basis, feeling suicidal is scary.

“I couldn’t bond with my baby and had thoughts of wanting to suffocate him – I know how wrong that sounds but I was emotionally numb.”

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She fell into a deep depression that saw her struggle to enjoy life: “Day to day living is really hard – you can’t be bothered getting up, you’ve got no emotions and you just feel bleak.

“The pandemic made everything worse, I was going insane and struggled to stay in the house.

“My anxiety was through the roof and I can’t imagine how had it was for others.”

Jessica, who says she faced difficulties accessing support, believes appropriate mental health services should be widely available for those in need.

Those suffering from mental health problems often struggle to be taken seriously and can be left feeling as though they’re wasting people’s time, she said.

READ MORE: Postnatal depression and the pandemic - stark rise in new mums seeking help

“Be there if someone is struggling,” is her message to others.

“Access to support is not easy and I struggled for years trying my own things – more services are needed.

“If I’d found the correct help earlier, I might not have spiralled.

“You really need support around you when your mental health is bad.

“Without the right support, whatever you’re going through becomes ten times worse.”

Support is available from midwives, GPs, health visitors, charities and community services.

For more information, visit the NHS.