Postpartum depression (PPD) is a psychological condition wherein new mothers experience negative feelings after giving birth, as opposed to the happiness and excitement that one might expect. Fortunately, postpartum depression is treatable, and if you know someone going through this condition, there are many ways you can help.
But first, how do you know if your friend or family member is suffering from postpartum depression? Here are the symptoms of PPD to look out for:
Symptoms of PPD
As opposed to ‘baby blues,’ which lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks in new moms, postpartum depression causes more intense and long-lasting symptoms, such as:
- Anxiety and depression
- Severe mood swings
- More frequent crying spells
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Extreme fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feelings of shame, anger, guilt
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Severe irritability and lashing out
- Distancing from loved ones
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming the child
- Suicidal ideation or thoughts of death
When left untreated, postpartum depression can last for many months or even longer. Over time, this condition can affect the mother’s physical health, mental health, and relationships with family and friends, especially their child.
If you want to help a loved one with PPD, here are different ways you can support them:
How to support a mom with PPD
1. Bring a gift
Although a gift won’t magically solve a new mom’s PPD, it can help give them at least a bit of happiness during this trying time. When you visit them, bring a gift that they can use for their hobby, such as a half square triangle ruler, or bring them their favorite food. As long as there is a possibility that the gift will bring a smile to their face, it doesn’t matter how small it is.
2. Focus on her
After a woman gives birth, the people around her tend to focus most (if not all) of their attention on the baby. This is not to be malicious, but the excitement of a new arrival usually overshadows the mother’s well-being after giving birth. So when you visit your loved one, make the conversation about her, not about the baby. Ask her about her day. Let her know that she is not forgotten. And most importantly, listen to what she has to say.
3. Offer to help
Postpartum depression can make mothers feel utterly exhausted, even when they aren’t doing anything physically taxing. As a result, household chores remain undone, and the errand list keeps getting longer. Offering to do a chore around the house or run an errand for them can help ease the burden on their shoulders, even by just a bit, so be sure to offer anytime you can.
4. Give her space
It’s essential to be there for a loved one suffering from PDD, but sometimes you have to pull back and give them space. At times, mothers with postpartum depression need time alone to process their feelings and acknowledge their thoughts in silence. This is especially important during the first few weeks after the baby arrives, wherein everybody wants to see the baby and a million things need to be done in the house.
5. Don’t invalidate her feelings
Instead of saying, “You will be a great mom, you don’t have to worry,” when a new mother voices their concerns, use phrases such as “I understand how you are feeling that way” or “That sounds difficult.” By echoing their concerns instead of disputing them, you help make them feel validated in their feelings, which, in turn, can help reduce guilt and anxiety associated with PDD.
6. Share your own story
If you have experienced (or are experiencing) PDD or non-pregnancy-related depression and anxiety, ask them if they want to hear about your story. When a woman hears that another person close to them is going through or has gone through the same thing, it can provide them the comfort that they need to push forward.
7. Accompany her to doctor’s appointments
Prompt treatment of postpartum depression is essential. To provide your support, offer to accompany them during their appointments if their spouse or partner cannot make it.
If you want to support a mother suffering from postpartum depression, be specific about what you want to help with. Instead of saying, “I’m here if you need me,” which can be very vague, offer to help with specific tasks, such as doing the grocery shopping, babysitting, or doing the laundry. In any case, every bit of help you give can make it easier for your loved one to recover.
Can you think of other ways to help a mom with PPD? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.