The Truth About Scary and Intrusive Thoughts

Scary and intrusive thoughts are a common symptom of postpartum depression.

Intrusive thoughts lead many women to believe that they are terrible people, unfit mothers or a danger to their children.  While many women experience them in some form, they don’t always recognize that they are intrusive or involuntary.  Instead, they believe that the thoughts are how they truly feel, or what they are thinking subconsciously.  They don’t talk about them for fear of what others will think of them.

It’s important to speak up about intrusive thoughts, but before a woman can do that – she needs to understand what they are, where they come from and what they mean.  This is the only way she will be able to accept that the thoughts she is having are not who she has become, but rather, a side effect of her mental illness.

*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


What are Intrusive Thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are an idea or image that come to your mind involuntarily.  The thoughts may be extremely out-of-character and can be shocking when they happen.  They are almost exactly the same as the thoughts and images that you normally have, except that they are not created nor welcomed by you.  Intrusive thoughts are a sign of mental illness and prove that your mind is playing tricks on you.


What are NOT Intrusive Thoughts?

They are not hallucinations.

They are not third party voices in your head.

They are not an indication of postpartum psychosis.

They are not subconscious thoughts or images.

They are not part of your normal train of thought.

They are not how you truly feel deep down inside.

9 Reasons Why Moms Don't Talk About Postpartum Depression
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Types of Intrusive Thoughts

The most common type of intrusive thoughts or images are of doing something bad to the baby.  They can be “what if…” type of thoughts such as “what if I drop my baby down the stairs” or “what if I stab my baby with a knife.”  They can also be images such as watching the baby drown in the bathtub or crashing the car with the baby in the backseat.

Intrusive thoughts can also be about harming yourself.  Many women experience suicidal thoughts but have no actual desire to commit suicide.  Postpartum depression can cause women to experience thoughts of running away, jumping out of a moving car or falling asleep and never waking up again.  Intrusive thoughts often make a woman believe she is unfit to be a mother and that her children would be better off without her.

Another type of intrusive thought includes harming a spouse or another loved one.  It’s normal to complain about the annoying things a spouse does and imagine doing something bad to them, but when it affects your relationship or comes out of nowhere it could be an intrusive thought.  Postpartum depression, and especially postpartum rage, are often misdirected towards spouses and partners – making a woman believe that she really does hate her husband.  Add in intrusive thoughts like running them over with the car and it’s a relationship nightmare…

Some intrusive thoughts are inappropriate and violent.  Many can be sexual in nature or include things like harming animals or setting the house on fire.

Basically, any thought or image that enters your head and feels scary and unnatural is an unwanted or intrusive thought.
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The Danger of Intrusive Thoughts

Thoughts and images alone are not dangerous.  But intrusive thoughts can cause several unwanted side effects that can become dangerous both physically and mentally.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Intrusive thoughts can cause a woman to develop postpartum OCD and become obsessed with certain thoughts and images.  If she imagines the baby dying in their sleep, she may stop sleeping in order to check on baby several times through the night.

Stress and Anxiety. Knowing that intrusive thoughts are a possibility is a big source of stress and anxiety, which can worsen symptoms of postpartum depression.  For a woman suffering from postpartum anxiety, scary thoughts can cause panic attacks and other symptoms.

Acting on Intrusive Thoughts.  It’s rare that a woman would go so far as to act on her intrusive thoughts but the danger that she might still exists.  Intrusive thoughts can even lead a woman to feel suicidal.

Stigmatizing.  Intrusive thoughts play a major role in the stigma of postpartum depression.  Many mothers who try to open up about them are treated like crazy people or seen as dangerous and suicidal.  If intrusive thoughts are confessed to a person (even a medical professional) without enough knowledge about them, the consequences could be dangerous.  Its important to find a safe place to discuss intrusive thoughts.

What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal
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The Truth About Intrusive Thoughts

The truth is, they are not real.  They may stem from the feelings of inadequacy or overwhelm caused by postpartum depression but they are not part of the subconscious mind.  They are a figment of your imagination and a by-product of mental illness.  In order to eliminate them, and avoid having them control your life, you need to accept that they are coming from somewhere else, and not from what’s within your heart.

How to Get Rid of Intrusive Thoughts

As long as a woman is suffering from a mental illness, the intrusive thoughts will always be a possibility.  So the only way to eliminate them altogether is to treat the underlying condition.  There are still several things a person can do to keep intrusive thoughts from affecting their lives.

Document Them.  Writing down scary thoughts as they happen can help make them less frightening.  You can write them on paper, in a journal or workbook, on your phone or use an app.  If you really want to take a stand against intrusive thoughts and connect with other women who are having them, you could even consider blogging about them.

Release Them.  Intrusive thoughts are perhaps one of the hardest things to speak out loud when battling postpartum depression.  Many people are not nearly as informed about intrusive thoughts as they should be, and this makes talking openly about them risky.  The best place to express the scary thoughts you’re having is to find a safe and positive space, such as a support group. The Postpartum Stress Center offers a safe place online for women to anonymously #SpeaktheSecret.  It helps to read some of the thoughts other women have had, and even submit your own to release them from your mind.

Online Therapy.  Speaking to a mental health professional is always a good course of action for women battling intrusive thoughts.  With online therapy, you have the option to chat with your therapist anytime throughout the day, as opposed to waiting for a scheduled appointment.  This is a great option to be able to discuss scary thoughts as they occur.  (If this is an option you’d like to explore, you can get 20% off of online therapy using my affiliate link: http://runningintriangles.com/OnlineTherapy).

Online Therapy
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Meditation.  Clearing the mind on a daily basis can help reduce the instances of intrusive thoughts.  Meditation can also help to create mindfulness in general, making you feel a little bit more in control of the thoughts and images in your own head.  Meditation, either alone or while doing yoga, should become an important part of your self-care routine for battling postpartum depression and intrusive thoughts.

Positive Imagery.  Surround yourself with sights that make you feel happy.  You can put together a photo album of some of your happiest photos and look at it regularly.  Or keep flowers and plants in your home.  Hang motivational posters or family photos on the walls.  Subconsciously, your mind will soak up all the beauty around you and be a happier place.

Get Enough Sleep.  Sleep deprivation is known for causing all kinds of problems in new mothers.  From postpartum depression to anxiety and rage, a lack of sleep is like leaving the door wide open for intrusive thoughts.  If you need to, invest in a better mattress and look into other ways to fight off insomnia.

Distraction.  Keeping the mind distracted will allow less time for scary thoughts to creep in.  Music is an excellent way to keep the mind distracted.  Try playing music in the background while you’re home, call or visit with a friend, read a book or put on the television.  Maintaining a proper self-care routine can also help keep intrusive thoughts away.

7 Ways to Make Your Space a Self Care Sanctuary
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The most important factor in dealing with intrusive thoughts is to know the difference between your actual thoughts and the unwanted ones.  Having intrusive thoughts may make you feel like a bad mother with the potential to do something harmful but it’s not the truth.  Focus on the positive thoughts and try your best to ignore the ones that make you feel anything but joy.  Accept that they are a side effect of postpartum depression and not who you have become.  It may take a while for the thoughts and images to go away, but as long as you remember that you are still you inside, you can defeat them.

Postpartum Depression Survival Guide Free Resource Library
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Get this FREE printable PDF Quick Reference Guide of National Crisis Support Numbers in the Running in Triangles Free Resource Library, available exclusively to subscribers of the Postpartum Depression Survival Guide. Click here to subscribe.

The Truth About Scary and Intrusive Thoughts

Kara’s Postpartum Depression Story

Continue reading “Kara’s Postpartum Depression Story”

The Ultimate Collection of Postpartum Depression Stories

Continue reading “The Ultimate Collection of Postpartum Depression Stories”

5 Things to Expect in the Aftermath of Postpartum Depression

It’s been 7 years since my battle with postpartum depression first began.  I consider myself a survivor now but living in the aftermath of postpartum depression is nothing like life was before it.

Postpartum depression treatment options are different for everyone but there are a few things to expect on your journey to recovery.

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


1. Expect it to never go away 100%

I had hyperemesis gravidarum with all three of my pregnancies and it was horrific.  But as soon as I pushed the baby out, the nausea went away instantly.  Postpartum depression is not like that.

With treatment, you will get better.  The days will be brighter and the fits of sadness and rage will become fewer and far between.  But it will always be there, deep down inside.  It will be hard to forget the dark days and there will be reminders of them everywhere.

You may go months, years even, living happily as a postpartum depression survivor and then suffer a relapse during a strenuous week of sleep regression or the flu.  My personal postpartum depression treatment requires a consistent self-care routine and I’ve noticed that symptoms tend to rear their ugly head if I don’t keep up with it.

I think of my postpartum depression like a wound.  It happened and it healed but the scar remains.  Most days I forget all about it but it is always there.
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2. Expect to feel guilty

We know that postpartum depression is NOT OUR FAULT.  But accepting that fact is much harder to swallow.  As moms, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we often feel guilty for something – our fault or not; we’re not spending enough time with our kids, we’re not giving them the best clothes, food, toys, education, etc. – you name it and a mom’s felt guilty for it.

But the guilt that a postpartum depression survivor feels is much worse than your average mom guilt.  The things we said or did while we were in the raw days of postpartum depression were not us.  We couldn’t control them, we couldn’t anticipate them and we didn’t mean a word of it.

But we remember all of it. And if there were witnesses around, (i.e. an older child or spouse) it’s likely they remember everything too.

So no matter how many times we tell ourselves that it’s not our fault – we can’t help but feel guilty for all the things we said or did during the battle.
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3. Expect to have different relationships

Postpartum depression changes you.  You can never go back to being the person you were before this.

Your relationship with your spouse or significant other will either be stronger or broken entirely.  They will also be a changed person because you can’t watch someone else go through something like postpartum depression and not feel anything about it afterwards.

You could try this 30 Day Relationship Challenge from To The Altar & After!

But if someone has loved you and stuck with you through the darkest of days then they are a keeper.  If they ran for the hills then you didn’t want them anyway…

The same could be said of your friendships except it’s unlikely they even knew you had postpartum depression.

If you alienated yourself from everyone while you were suffering but did not give an explanation why then you will probably need to do some damage control in the aftermath.
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4. Expect to be a stronger woman than you were before

It goes without saying that postpartum depression survivors are some of the strongest women who exist.  (Ok, all “survivors” are strong – perhaps this one sounds cliché… but being forced to suffer from depression during a time in your life when you should be MOST happy is just plain cruel.) 

Once you’ve doubted every single decision you’ve made, questioned your reason for living and hurt people you love – there is not much left that will scare you.  You will reach a point where you think you just can’t handle it anymore – but then you do.

You learn that the limit to how much you can handle is much further than where you thought it was…
What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal
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5. Expect to WANT to tell your story

While you may have felt ashamed or embarrassed about your condition at the time – afterwards you will be proud to say “I beat postpartum depression.”

You will recognize the all too familiar pain in other women and want to help them.  Since you are stronger now, you don’t care who judges you for what.

And while writing or talking about your experience will be hard and will likely stir up all the guilt you’ve been working so hard to abolish, the freedom you will gain from it is unlike any other.

Sometime in the aftermath of postpartum depression, you will WANT to tell your story, whether it’s to your closest friends and family or complete strangers.

And when you do, others will sympathize with you and relate to you and perhaps you’ll even save a life…

If and when you are ready to share your story – click here to find out how.


Want to tell your postpartum depression story but not sure where to start?  Download this FREE printable PDF workbook

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The Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression vs. No Postpartum Mood Disorder

I’ve given birth to three kids, experienced three similar pregnancies,  labored through three natural, drug-free births, but ended up with three very different postpartum recovery periods…

It’s hard to know for sure if you’re suffering from a maternal mental health disorder, and even then, it’s hard to know which level of intensity you’re experiencing.  The baby blues is something that so many mothers experience, but when do you know if it’s turned into something more?  Postpartum depression is often explained away as a bad case of the baby blues when, in reality, it’s much more serious.  Here’s what it felt like first hand.


*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


The Baby Blues

Shortly after the birth of my first child I experienced symptoms of what I believe were the “baby blues.”  They didn’t last long and they didn’t disrupt my life (much).

The mood swings were my first indicator.  I remember watching my husband interact with the baby while our two dogs sat at his feet watching.  I thought about how the dogs had no idea how much life was changing and I instantly burst into tears.  I’m not usually a sensitive or emotional person so this was a sure sign to me that I was experiencing some type of hormonal imbalance. It was very similar to the mood swings I experienced during pregnancy. [Try tracking your moods with a printable mood tracker]

The sleep deprivation added to my emotional state.  The way someone would feel after staying up partying all night long (which may or may not be a familiar feeling for me *wink wink*).  I felt irritable and edgy but sleep (when I could get it) was welcome and helped to alleviate the stress. [Keep track of how much sleep you’re getting each night].

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I blamed the extreme “mom brain” on the sleep deprivation as well.  It was probably one of the hardest symptoms for me to manage as someone who prides themselves on having a great memory.  Suddenly I couldn’t multi-task because I would forget what I was doing in the first place.  I wrote down absolutely everything in a log book, significant or not, in a vain attempt to remember when I last fed him.

I felt an overwhelming urge to protect him and I worried a lot about everything he did.  I worried about holding him too much, or not enough.  I worried about the way others were holding him.  I worried about his diaper being put on properly.  I worried about such small and insignificant things (in addition to all the normal motherhood worrying like how much he was eating, pooping and sleeping). [Document your worries in a worry workbook]

I didn’t bond with the baby as much as I thought I would.  I spent a lot of time talking to him but the lack of a response discouraged me.  I wasn’t absolutely head over heels in love with him the way motherhood is portrayed in the media.  While I didn’t have any negative feelings, I felt very indifferent towards him.

We didn’t get out of the house much at first.  I was extremely overprotective of him and convinced that he would contract bad germs from strangers.  Aside from worrying, I honestly just didn’t feel like leaving the comfort of my own home.

Carseat "No Touching" Sign
Wish I had one of these signs from NikkiDanielDesigns on Etsy.ca

It eventually went away on it’s own.  Similar to a really bad case of PMS, I started to feel “normal” again.  I didn’t cry at the mere thought of something sad and I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and socialize.  By the time he was 2 months old he was smiling, making eye contact and interacting and I did fall head over heels in love with him.


Postpartum Depression

After the birth of my second child, things felt a little bit different.  That first baby that I didn’t bond with?  Well he was two years old now and the absolute center of my world.  So for the first couple months, things were monotonous and scheduled and boring – as long as the baby was concerned, at least.

She had basic needs and I didn’t try too hard to bond with her.  I knew that would happen eventually so I didn’t put too much pressure on myself this time.  The first two months after her birth were extremely busy in my social life so I didn’t have time to stew over the fact that life as I knew it had completely changed.

But when the dust settled and I was left at home, alone, with a toddler and a newborn who wouldn’t stop crying – things changed…
Prenatal & Postpartum Depression - Vanessa's Story
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I was tired and emotional but this time I couldn’t sleep no matter how hard I tried.  Every time I closed my eyes I thought I heard the baby cry and got up to check on her.  Sometimes it was 15 times in an hour but I couldn’t stop myself because I knew the one time I didn’t check on her would be the time something bad happened.  If someone else offered to look after her while I took a nap, then I would lie in bed for 2 hours worrying if she was alright.

The mood swings were extreme and uncontrollable.  As the weeks went on, I started to despise her.  I blamed her for everything I was feeling.  She felt my negative feelings and cried harder and longer which made me dislike her even more.  But then I would think about how I’ve always wanted to have a daughter and I would suffocate her in love – until she started crying again.  The slightest things could send me into fits of rage and I got offended and jealous very easily.

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I was terrified to leave the house with her.  I was certain she would cry and I wouldn’t be able to handle her and everyone would stare at me and think I was a horrible mother.  So I stayed in my house where no one could judge me.  I avoided contact with almost everyone.

And the worst part of all was that I lied about what I was feeling to everyone.  I felt humiliated and inadequate and worthless but I hid it the best I could.  I dressed the baby up in cute outfits and took cute pictures of her to post on social media.  I posted captions about how much I loved having a baby girl and how all of my dreams had come true but in reality I just wanted to rewind life to a time before she existed.

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The more I tried to “fix” things, the worse they got.  Even when I tried to “snap out of it” the baby was still reacting to my negative energy and crying all day and night.  My brain was full of terrible ways I could get her to shut up but instead I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for what seemed like hours.  The guilt eventually built up huge walls that closed in on me.  I even contemplated suicide.

For months I battled in silence, not knowing it was postpartum depression.  I kept waiting for this funk to pass, waiting for the “hormones to regulate” but they never did, not without help, that is.

If you need help with what you believe might be postpartum depression, you can speak to an online therapist from Better Help.  For more information visit https://www.betterhelp.com/

For more information about postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders, check out this comprehensive guide from Parenting Pod.

What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal
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No Postpartum Mood Disorder

Considering I went to hell and back with my last baby, I must have been absolutely crazy to have another one, right?  The postpartum depression was forefront in my mind but this time I felt more prepared.  I knew what to look for, and I knew that I needed to speak up if I felt something was even a little bit off.

The first time she was placed in my arms, I felt it.  That immediate love that legends were made of.  I couldn’t wait to hold her and I didn’t want to do anything else except just stare at her perfect face.

The early days with her were peaceful and calm – despite the sleepless nights.  The other two children often played with each other and so I had her all to myself.  The fact that she couldn’t talk back to me actually made me want to spend MORE time with her!

Trying to balance three children was definitely a challenge, and extremely overwhelming at times, but instead of being afraid and nervous and frustrated –  I felt excited and determined to make the best of it!

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I felt like I could control my mood.  Even on days when she was extra fussy or I was extra tired, I always managed to stay calm and relaxed around her.  I never felt a sad or negative thought about her.  And she was a calm and relaxed baby because of it.

Initially I worried about how the older children would handle the new baby.  But they never once showed any signs of jealousy towards her and completely welcomed her into our family.  I cried more tears of joy in her first few months than I ever have in my life.

I worried about how much she ate, pooped and slept and whether she was hitting her milestones on time.  Mostly because I was always comparing her to the other children.  In an attempt to get things right this time, I asked a lot of questions, I sought a lot of help and I socialized as often as possible.

I took all three kids out as often as I could.  It was next to impossible to manage all of them in public (and it still is) but I sure didn’t want to get stuck inside the house with them!


I can’t say for certain what factors affected these different postpartum outcomes but this is the way it worked out for me.  After my battle with postpartum depression, having another baby was not in the plans but she surprised us all and I’m glad she did. 

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When I think about life with a newborn, I try my hardest to reflect on the happiness of my last one, but will never forget the darkness that came before.
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The Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression

The Baby Blues vs Postpartum Depression vs No Postpartum Mood Disorder

9 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Speak Up About Having Postpartum Depression

I battled with postpartum depression silently for a long time and didn’t speak a word of it to anyone, nor did I have any intention to.

The reason why I finally decided to share my story was because I was so emotionally moved by the tragic story of a woman from my hometown, Lisa Gibson, who suffered and died from postpartum depression in 2013 (along with her two children).  The story, in itself, was truly heartbreaking but what bothered me the most was the public reaction.  Many people seemed to believe that she got what she deserved.

Her story was a worst case scenario, but I dreaded what others would think of me if they knew the dark thoughts and feelings that I battled with while I had postpartum depression.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like that to encourage someone to speak up but it made me realize two important things:

1.)  I was not alone.

2.)  We need to annihilate the stigma of postpartum depression.


As a survivor of postpartum depression, bringing awareness and help to others who are suffering is a cause that is close to my heart.  While it can be terrifying to “speak up when you’re feeling down” it is so important both for our own mental health and to help bring awareness about this debilitating condition.

[You can read my own personal story about battling prenatal and postpartum depression here.]

postpartum depression

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.  **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

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Check it out – I’ve added to this list!

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1. We are in denial 

Prior to becoming a mother myself, I had heard about postpartum depression in all of it’s notorious glory.  But I never, ever, in a million years, thought it would happen to me.  I had ZERO risk factors and an awesome support system.  So when the first few symptoms started popping up, I laughed it off…  “ME??? Postpartum depression??? Never!!!”

This comprehensive guide to maternal mental health disorders from Parenting Pod offers plenty of information to help you understand your symptoms.

2. We think this is “normal” motherhood

All we ever hear about when it comes to parenting is how hard it is.  The sleep loss, the crying, the breastfeeding struggle – it’s all normal… right?  A brand new mother experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression may assume that this is what everyone meant when they said it was hard.  I’ve heard stories of women opening up to others about what they were feeling, only to be told “welcome to motherhood.”

Think you might have postpartum depression?  Take this quiz from PostpartumDepression.org.

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3. We are terrified of having our child taken away from us

Obviously we want what’s best for our child but it would be a mother’s worst nightmare to be deemed incapable of caring for her own child (the child who got her into this mess in the first place, might I add).  If anyone knew the thoughts that a mother with postpartum depression has on a regular basis, they would lock her up and throw away the key.

If you are feeling the urge to act upon your bad thoughts, seek help immediately as you may be suffering from a rarer case of postpartum psychosis

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4. We are ashamed of ourselves 

For some reason, society has led us to believe that having postpartum depression is our fault.  Admitting to it is admitting that we were one of the weak ones who fell susceptible to the curse that is postpartum depression.  We feel like terrible people for thinking and feeling the way we do, even though we have no control over it.

5. We are concerned about what others will think of us

If we are diagnosed with postpartum depression that means we are classified as “mentally ill” and will need to accept the stigma that comes along with that label.  All of a sudden we are dangerous and unpredictable.  Will other people start to question our parenting skills now?  Will they treat us as if we are delicate and fragile and weak?  What will our co-workers or employers think?  Will having postpartum depression jeopardize our futures?

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6. We feel like failures

This is not the way it was supposed to happen.  In our dreams of becoming mothers we pictured it blissful and beautiful.  We imagined sitting in a rocking chair, singing lullabies to a sleepy, happy baby.  And when it wasn’t like this, we felt like we had failed. We failed our children and robbed them of a happy childhood.  We failed our spouses and robbed them of a happy marriage. We failed ourselves and all of our dreams of motherhood.  No one ever wants to admit that they are a failure.

What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal
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7. We think we can cure ourselves

We think it will go away on it’s own, eventually.  Or maybe we are planning to tell someone when it gets worse… it just hasn’t yet.

We think that if we sleep a little more, relax a little more, meditate and do yoga that our postpartum depression will magically go away and so there’s no need to burden anyone else with our problems.  Self-care while battling postpartum depression is extremely important but it’s highly unlikely that the symptoms will go away without a proper treatment plan.

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8. We don’t trust the medical system

It’s a sad truth that many women who open up about postpartum depression still don’t get the help they need.  Unless you already have a trusting relationship with a medical professional it can be difficult to find the right person to seek help from with such a personal matter.  The fear is that we’ll be told we’re over-exaggerating, drug seekers or that it’s all in our head.

Regardless of how difficult it is to find good help, it’s so necessary to seek treatment.  Postpartum depression will NOT go away on it’s own, and even if the feelings do subside after a while, there is always chance of a relapse.

6 Ways to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression
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9. We feel alone

We’ve joined online support groups.  We read the posts and silently agree without so much as a “like.” The women write about how they’re exhausted and overwhelmed.  They talk about how they can’t sleep at night, how they can’t eat or can’t stop eating and how they worry about everything all the time.  And we can relate to that.

But what those women don’t talk about is the bad thoughts they have.  It’s incriminating and requires a *trigger warning* and what if no one else feels the same way?

I’m here to tell you that I don’t care what bad thoughts you have, I don’t want nor need to know what they are because chances are, I’ve had them too.  You don’t have to say them out loud.  You can pretend like you didn’t even think them, so long as you know that you are not the only person who has thought them.  You are not alone.

To prove it to you, here is a list of postpartum depression stories from other brave mothers who have been through the worst of the worst and still managed to survive (myself included).

Postpartum Depression Blog Posts
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If you’ve read this entire post and can relate to all 9 of these things, then it’s time to do something about it.  Staying silent about postpartum depression helps no one.

Start by downloading this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you collect your thoughts and come to terms with what you are feeling and how you want to say it.

Then, write out your story.  It doesn’t have to be pretty – in fact, it probably won’t be.  But don’t hold back.  Think about all of the real and raw things you wish someone else had been brave enough to tell you.

Next, decide if you are ready to tell it.  Do you want to tell someone close to you or would you prefer to anonymously release it into the world for other mothers with PPD to read?  Either way is fine, as long as you’re not keeping it all inside.

If and when you are ready to tell your story – click here to find out how.
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9 Reasons Why Mothers Don't Speak Up about Having Postpartum Depression
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14 Ways to Help a Mother With Postpartum Depression

If a woman in your life has recently given birth then there’s a 1 in 5 chance they are struggling with postpartum depression.

It might be your partner, daughter, sister or friend but no matter who they are to you, it’s normal to feel helpless seeing them in pain.  It can be even more discouraging when you try to help them and they shut you out.  But don’t be offended, mental illness is a tricky situation and displays in many different ways.

From a mother who has battled it first hand, here are a few tips that might help you understand her better and be able to provide the right type of support.

14 Ways to Help a Mother with Postpartum Depression 14 Ways to Help a Mother with Postpartum Depression

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

1. Know the symptoms

It’s very common for a mother to be in denial about their postpartum depression at first.  Even if she does have her suspicions, it’s unlikely that she will admit it out loud.  This is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms in someone else so that, even if she doesn’t want to talk about it, you can be there to support her.

Resources:

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2. Believe her

There is a lot of stigma around postpartum depression and many people still don’t believe it’s a real disease.  If she does open up to you about having postpartum depression – believe that her pain is real.  She is not being overly dramatic.  She is not “just tired.” Motherhood is overwhelming in general and it will be for a very long time but postpartum depression is different – it’s uncontrollable.

Postpartum depression and anxiety cause a lot of undesirable side effects and symptoms that vary depending on the person.  This can make a woman feel and act like a hypochondriac.

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3. Help her get some rest

Sleep deprivation can aggravate postpartum depression but postpartum depression can cause insomnia so it’s a lose-lose situation.  Do whatever you can to help her rest.  If she cannot sleep at night, then make sure she gets frequent, short naps in throughout the day.  Invest in a new mattress to see if it makes a difference in her quality of sleep.  Here’s an excellent one that you can try for an entire year.

With a new baby, it’s natural and understandable to be sleep deprived.  If you’re having a lot of difficulty getting baby to sleep, consider hiring a sleep training expert.

But if baby is sleeping through the night and mom isn’t, then there’s definitely something wrong. 

Postpartum Anxiety Insomnia: 15 Ways to Get Better Sleep
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4. Don’t tell her things could be worse

It’s natural to want to tell her stories about someone else who had it worse in the hopes of making her feel better but it will have the opposite effect.  Instead of being thankful that she isn’t having suicidal thoughts, she might see her pain as insignificant and feel guilty for having such a difficult time when others are going through “things that are worse.”

It’s still important to make sure that she knows she isn’t alone – as long as she knows that debilitating pain from postpartum depression comes in all forms.

What to Do When Postpartum Depression Makes You Suicidal
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5. Don’t try to explain why

It’s not her fault. But she will try to blame herself anyway.  Trying to find a reason why this has happened can inadvertently put more guilt on her.

Yes, she’s tired, yes, breastfeeding is hard, yes, labor was intense but those are not the reasons why she has postpartum depression.  If labor and recovery were a breeze, baby was nursing fine and sleeping well she could STILL have it.

Knowing that postpartum depression does not discriminate and there was nothing she could have done to avoid it will relieve some of her guilt.

Encourage her to take part in the free genetic research study to help determine the root cause of postpartum depression.

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6. Keep it on the down low

For some reason, having a mental illness is embarrassing.  While it’s important to check in on her and ask her how she’s feeling, don’t put her on the spot or force her to open up about it if she’s not ready.

And definitely don’t go advertising that she has postpartum depression without her permission.  The last thing she wants is everyone at your office knowing about her postpartum depression and offering to help.  She will be mortified if someone she barely knows confronts her about postpartum depression, no matter how good their intentions might be.

It takes time to come to terms with postpartum depression for many reasons.  The more public it is, the more guilt and pressure she will feel about disappointing others.

The day will come when she will openly want to talk about it but it should be her who decides when that is.

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7. Send her a text message but don’t expect a reply right away

Don’t expect her to answer the phone when you call.  Better yet, don’t phone her.  For someone with postpartum depression, their emotions change throughout the day without warning.  Chances are, when you want to talk, won’t be when she wants to talk and vice versa.  A text message is a great way to check in and see how she’s doing while allowing her to reply when SHE feels up to it.  You can even write something like “you don’t have to reply right away – whenever you feel like talking just text me.”

Postpartum depression has a way of making a new mother withdraw from society and it has nothing to do with how she feels about you.

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8. Don’t force her to socialize

And don’t be offended if she doesn’t want to see you.  She’s not trying to keep the baby all to herself.  Going out or hosting visitors means putting on a smile and talking to people when all she wants to do is be alone.  Even her inner circle can be extremely irritating.

In addition to feeling socially withdrawn, many women with postpartum depression also suffer from social anxiety.  She may feel incredibly uncomfortable in public, even in small groups of close friends.

Allow her some time to avoid social interaction, and gradually work your way up to larger social gatherings.  

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9. Cook food for her

Appetite changes are a major symptom of postpartum depression.  She will either not want to eat anything at all or not be able to stop eating. Having a fridge stocked with healthy ready-to-eat food will help her get the calories and nutrition she so desperately needs (especially if she’s breastfeeding) without all the added exhaustion of having to prepare it.

Proper diet and nutrition plays a big role in managing her symptoms, so it’s important to make sure that she has access to healthy food.

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10. Clean the house but don’t make a big deal about it

Do it while she’s napping so she can’t tell you to stop.  Cleaning will be the last thing on her mind but looking around at piles of laundry, overflowing garbage bins or dishes in the sink will cause her more anxiety. It’s one thing to tell her not to worry about the cleaning, it’s another to make the clutter magically disappear.  A clutter free environment will help her mind to feel clutter-free as well.

If you notice that she starts to become obsessed about cleaning, she could be suffering from Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Check out Jordan’s story to see if it relates.

Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and OCD
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11. Get up with her in the middle of the night

If she’s breastfeeding, you may feel like there’s no point in getting up for night time feedings.  But those dark, lonely hours can be the scariest times for a mother with postpartum depression.  If for no other reason than to keep her company – get up with her. She may tell you that she’s OK and to go back to bed but at least get up and check on her – check if she needs anything, rub her feet or her back while she nurses.

Breastfeeding in itself can cause a lot of stress on new mothers.  If you see her struggling, let her know there are online lactation courses available, so she doesn’t need to do it alone.

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12. Help her find strangers to talk to

Don’t try to force her to talk to you about her feelings.  It’s much easier to talk to strangers who understand and won’t judge her and who she may never see or talk to again.  She can be completely honest and vulnerable without having to worry about hurting someone’s feelings or having them take things the wrong way.

Whether it’s an online forum, support group or a therapist – she will be much more comfortable talking to someone who has been in her position before and/or who has experience to share.

Consider signing her up for online therapy.  Via online therapy, she has the ability to work at her own pace and can chat with a licensed therapist from the comfort of her own home.

postpartum depression Facebook groups

Postpartum Support International
Momma’s Postpartum Depression Support Group
Postpartum Anxiety Support Group
Postpartum Depression Awareness

6 Ways to Get Online Help for Postpartum Depression
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13. Take pictures of her

Not happy, dressed up, perfectly posed pictures but real pictures.  Pictures of her nursing in her pajamas.  Pictures of her holding or sleeping beside the baby.  Pictures of her when she hasn’t showered in 3 days and has dried breast milk all over her shirt.  Take pictures of her crying.  Aim for honest pictures of her so that she can look back at them when she is better and remember this part of her life.

You can even make a special photo album filled with pictures of her and baby as a keepsake because she may not remember all these days as clearly.

Reassure her that you will never show them to anyone else or post them anywhere, they are only for her.

16 Gifts that will Boost Anyone's Mood
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14. Wait it out

Don’t try to rush her recovery. Helping her find the right path to recovery is important but don’t keep asking if she’s feeling better yet. If she has a good day, don’t assume she’s past the worst of it.

She may go years without an episode, only to have it triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, illness or something else entirely.  Many women will battle postpartum depression for years, if not forever, so if you’re in this with her – prepare to go the lengths for her.

Know that there is no cure for mental illness, only treatment options to keep it under control.  

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For more information on the recovery process, check out this post: How long does Postpartum Depression Last? Accelerate Your Recovery!


Postpartum depression is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in North America for a reason.  Women, moms in particular, pride themselves in being able to handle it all and admitting that they are struggling or need help is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.  While these tips may help the woman in your life open up to you, nothing is ever for certain when it comes to postpartum depression and many women experience it in different ways.  If all else fail – love her and support her and don’t ever give up on her.

Postpartum Depression Survival Guide Free Resource Library
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Get this FREE printable PDF Quick Reference Guide of National Crisis Support Numbers in the Running in Triangles Free Resource Library, available exclusively to subscribers of the Postpartum Depression Survival Guide. Click here to subscribe.