28 Jul 5 Ways To Support a Mom Who Is Struggling with Postpartum Depression
What is Postpartum Depression?
When you leave the hospital for the first time, you may read through a brochure about Postpartum Depression (PPD) that goes over a checklist of symptoms. However, what many people don’t know is that someone suffering after the birth of their baby may be experiencing a huge range of emotions; experiences span from feeling obsessive anxiety, to feelings of uselessness, and even relentless rage.
If you have recently had a baby, the following symptoms could indicate that you have a perinatal mood disorder:
- Feelings of sadness and depression
- Irritability and anger toward those around you
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Symptoms of anxiety/panic
- Upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind
- Feeling like you are “out of control” or “going crazy”
- Feeling like you should have never become a mother
- Worried that you may hurt your baby or yourself
While most women experience mood changes during and after pregnancy, 15-20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. However, there is no reason to continue to suffer; with careful and compassionate care, you can prevent further worsening of symptoms. We now know that postpartum mood disorders do not discriminate; women of every culture, age, income level, and race can develop these symptoms during pregnancy and within the first 12 months after childbirth.
Beyond Postpartum Depression
While many of you likely have heard of the term “postpartum depression” there are other forms of illness that women experience, including:
- Pregnancy or Postpartum OCD
- Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Bipolar Mood Disorders
- Postpartum Psychosis
How to Help
After experiencing the joys and challenges of having two children myself, and watching several loved ones go through the tumult of trying to conceive, pregnancy loss, and traumatic births, I thought I would share what I have learned, as well as how you may help if you know a loved one who you may see struggling:
One practical way of helping is to check in with your friend/sister/aunt/coworker often. Ask her how she is, and remind her that you are there for her. The period after pregnancy can feel very isolating. Hearing from a friend communicates that you remember her and care for her well-being. Now, in the time of COVID-19, connection in any way, shape, or form will help.
If she is open to it, set aside time for conversation. If she is open to confiding in you, listen with compassion and empathy. Don’t push your own thoughts and expectations or personal stories upon her. Just listen to her experiences in a curious and non-judgmental way, and help highlight her successes. Find ways to reflect how her baby calms down when he/she hears her voice. Or, praise her for her ability to balance so much at one time. We don’t build each other up enough and this is the perfect time to shower her with admiration.
3. Lighten her load
Bring over a cooked meal or offer to watch her infant while she showers. Throughout COVID-19 you could order groceries to be delivered to her house or send her a gift card to order takeout from her favorite restaurant. You could even go in with a group of people to buy some already prepared meals that she can heat up and eat without thinking ahead.
4. Help your friend come up with a sleep plan
Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important factors to help alleviate symptoms of perinatal mental illness. Involving significant others and extended family to help schedule “baby shifts” and “sleep shifts” will help ensure a few hours of uninterrupted sleep each day. Even coming by so she can nap for 2 hours will help tremendously.
5. Find further help/support
You can help her to find a trained mental health professional in her area and compile a list for her using the https://psidirectory.com/. Here, at North Shore Family Services, you can find help for this as well! We have trained therapists who can help you transition into parenthood. Additionally, many women benefit from the support of a community of others who are also experiencing PMADs in these instances. You can help refer them to online groups such as Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International
North Shore Family Services is a team of skilled and approachable therapists that help parents, children, teens, adults, and couples reduce anxiety and stress, learn effective problem-solving techniques, and manage emotions and behaviors that inhibit personal, school, family, and relationship success. We make therapy a productive, engaging and relaxing place for everyone to work hard and make the improvements they desire. To find the right-fit therapist for you and your family, visit our clinician’s page.