How to Help Someone with Postpartum Depression
New moms are faced with many new challenges; healing from birth, lack of sleep, navigating feeding, pregnancy hormones, and learning about their new baby, just to name a few. All these changes plus hormone fluctuations can lead to depression related to pregnancy and childbirth called postpartum depression.
Difference Between Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression
You may have heard of the term “baby blues” and wondered what the difference is between baby blues and postpartum depression. Here is the answer:
Affects 60-80% of new mothers universally
Due to hormone fluctuation at the time of birth and acute sleep deprivation
Lasts between 2 days to 2 weeks after birth
Usually peaks 3-5 days after delivery
Symptoms: tearfulness, lability, reactivity, exhaustion
Predominantly happy, self-esteem remains unchanged
Unrelated to stress or prior psychiatric history
Feeling shame or guilt
Thoughts to harm yourself or your baby
Anxiety and/or panic
Mood swings, anger
Last beyond 2weeks past delivery
Signs My Loved One May Have Postpartum Depression
If your loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, you most likely will not hear them say “I am depressed.” Instead you may hear them say something like:
“I don’t feel like myself.”
“I haven’t showered in days.”
“I don’t feel connected to the baby.”
“I don’t feel like socializing.”
“This is all too much.”
Your loved one may show signs like crying a lot, anger/rage, low appetite, or be more withdrawn than usual.
Signs and symptoms are intense, come about after delivery and last longer than two weeks.
6 Ways To Support Someone With Postpartum Depression
Ask them about their feelings & really LISTEN
Someone who is struggling with postpartum depression probably has a lot of feelings (sadness, guilt, shame, anger, etc.). Don't ignore these feelings, be there & listen without judgement.
New mothers struggling may not be upfront about their feelings so you need to ASK if they are not sharing! Even if they seem to be doing really well and like they are adjusting to their new role effortlessly, be mindful to inquire about how they are doing. A lot of times, new mother’s suffer in silence and are unsure how to share with their loved ones.
Do not compare your experiences
If you have children yourself, do not compare your experience with their experience. By doing this you may perpetuate the guilt and shame they are already feeling. Saything things like “breastfeeding was so easy for me” or “you just have to sleep when the baby sleeps like I did” will only make a new mother feel worse if she is having a different experience and a difficult time with these areas of postpartum.
Instead, as mentioned before, LISTEN to her experience and validate what she is going through. Try not to provide advice or to “fix” the problem with what may have worked for you. It is deeper than finding a simple solution.
Remind them what they are going through is temporary
They may be feeling like things will never get better and they will never feel like themselves again. Remind them that this is not true and these symptoms are not part of their identity. It may take time but they will overcome this struggle.
Remind them that there is help and support out there for them which will help them feel like themselves again quicker. Show your support by showing up and reminding them they are strong and will get through this difficult time.
Make Specific Plans
Find specific things you can do for them and their family. Rather than asking what they need, offer specific ways you can help. For example, bring over dinner one night or clean their dishes without asking.
These acts may seem simple but they make a HUGE impact on new parents. To take away these burdens will lighten a new mom's load so she can focus on herself and her new baby.
Reassure them they are a good parent
There are a lot of fears that come along with postpartum depression so try listening and reassuring them that they are a good parent even if they don't feel like it. They may not believe it at the moment, but these kind words will stay with her when she needs them most. You never know how powerful an encouraging word can really be.
Support their decisions
If someone is struggling with postpartum depression, they may end up seeking treatment, including therapy & medication. If they make this decision (with their doctor), be supportive. Postpartum depression may also influence their decision on feeding, whatever they decide your support is important.