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:
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.
Postpartum depression can be hard to recognize and often goes undiagnosed.
If you think you have postpartum depression, it usually means you’ve noticed that something just isn’t right. This is a great first step, and perhaps the most important. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information or conversations happening about postpartum depression among new and expecting mothers. So they’re not all to blame for not knowing the signs and symptoms.
If you think you have postpartum depression, here are some of the first steps you should take.
Perform a self assessment
You may be used to relying on a doctor, nurse, midwife or doula for treatment during your pregnancy and afterwards. But it’s a little bit different when it comes to mental illness. Unlike physical illnesses, there is no blood test to determine if you have postpartum depression. The standard questionnaires that you fill out after giving birth are designed for more extreme cases and they don’t give you a chance to express how you really feel.
So instead of simply rating how you feel on a scale of 1 – 10, sit down with a pen and paper and perform a more detailed self assessment.
Keep track of your sleeping and eating habits over the course of at least one week or more.
Write out all the thoughts you’ve had, whether they were welcome or not.
Keep a calendar of your social activities and make note of how you felt being around people.
Document your mood changes in detail, either with a journal or mood tracker.
Take note of your connection and relationship with your baby, your other children and your significant other.
Focus on your energy levels. Have they significantly decreased or increased?
Write down anything and everything that you feel might have changed or is out of the ordinary for you.
After a week or two of taking notes, go back and look it over. Look for anything that might be a red flag or that seemed really out of character for you. If you feel comfortable enough, share your notes with a loved one or your doctor or therapist.
Adjusting to life with a new baby is tough for everyone. Just because you don’t quite feel like yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you have postpartum depression. Before you think the worst, see if it will go away with a few lifestyle changes.
If you haven’t had the chance to sleep for longer than a 3 hour interval since giving birth, then consider getting some help. Ask your spouse or a family member to watch the baby while you sleep. Hire a postpartum doula or nurse for an overnight shift. If baby’s sleep habits are keeping you up, consider sleep training or hiring a sleep training consultant.
Try yoga, meditation, aromatherapy or another natural remedy to help with mood swings, anxiety or intrusive thoughts. Focus on eating healthier and make time to socialize and connect with your spouse and baby. Spend some time initiating these simple changes into your life and take note of whether they’ve made a difference in your overall mood.
Click here to get the full version of this Postpartum Depression Self Assessment Workbook in the Free Resource Library.
Speak to a Professional
If you’ve completed a self assessment, made some lifestyle changes and still haven’t noticed an improvement, then it’s time to speak to a professional. This is the part that most women avoid because the mere thought of admitting it can be terrifying. But because you’ve done your self assessment, you can feel confident walking into your doctor’s office with proof of what you’ve been going through over the past few weeks. Plus, there are more options that you think when it comes to who to talk to:
Once you have a treatment plan in place, it’s a good idea to find a support group to help you through it. You don’t need to battle postpartum depression alone. Your medical professional may be able to recommend a local group that you can attend. Or you can join a Facebook support group or download an anonymous chat app like CARA Unmask. Speaking to other women who know what you are going through is so helpful and important to your recovery.
Postpartum depression will not go away on it’s own after the postpartum period is over. As your baby grows older and some of the challenges such as sleep deprivation and breastfeeding become easier, the symptoms may ease up. If you are on prescription antidepressants to treat your symptoms, then make sure to speak to your doctor about stopping them. Stopping antidepressants abruptly can cause side effects. Slowly weaning off of them is usually best.
But even if you stop taking the antidepressants and attending therapy sessions, you should always take care of your mental health to try to avoid suffering a postpartum depression relapse. Self care should become your number one priority, including things like eating right and getting enough sleep. Remember that your mental health will always be in a more delicate state, even when you start to feel better.
What NOT To Do
Do NOT wait!
Don’t ignore the symptoms or brush them off as no big deal. The worst thing you can do when it comes to postpartum depression is to do nothing because untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. No matter how strong you think you might be, don’t ever underestimate mental illness and the damage it can do.
Too many mothers with postpartum depression or anxiety put off seeking help or getting the care they need.
One reason for this is because they just don’t know where to go or who to talk to. And even if they did know, the idea of leaving the house for appointments can be both inconvenient and terrifying. The good news is that, thanks to modern technology, there are many ways for a mother to get online help for postpartum depression from the comfort of her own home. Not only is it convenient, but it makes it easier to find the right person to speak to. Instead of having to rely on resources available locally, women now have access to an international panel of experts.
Here are a few different ways that mothers can access online help for postpartum depression.
1. Try Online Therapy
One of the best ways for moms to get help for postpartum depression is by speaking to a therapist. But it’s also something that many women avoid doing for several reasons:
It’s tough to arrange for childcare during appointments, especially with a brand new or exclusively breastfed baby.
There is a lot of stigma around “going to therapy” that may deter a mother from choosing to do it in public.
With so many horror stories of mothers being treated like criminals, they may avoid speaking to someone without knowing how that person will react first.
Finding the right therapist can be difficult. It sometimes requires a referral from a doctor, which can delay the process.
Having to make phone calls to set up appointments, get dressed to go out, interact with others socially and feel judged by everyone along the way is an exhausting task for mothers with postpartum depression.
Mothers don’t always feel at their worst between 9 – 5, Monday to Friday. Some therapists might offer an emergency number to call but that would mean inconveniencing someone and mothers aren’t usually down for doing that, no matter how bad it gets.
Online-Therapy allows you to work on cognitive behavior therapy at your own pace. You complete various reading sections and worksheets, like chapters in a text book. Your therapist guides you along the way, providing feedback on your answers and offers support via live chat or e-mail. You also get a variety of other tools and resources at your disposal, 24/7. You can access an online forum for therapy members, yoga and meditation videos, workbooks and more. You get so much more than just a therapy session, and you can do it all right from home. [Read more about my experience here]
BetterHelpis a popular online therapy company that works hard to match you with the right counselor. You can complete the online questionnaire as the very first step so that your therapist will have some information about your condition ahead of time.
eVideo Counseloris another great option for moms suffering from postpartum depression. Through their sessions, you can video chat directly with a licensed and HIPAA compliant therapist. You schedule your appointments just like any other therapist office but speak to your therapist using your computer or cell phone. The sessions are much more like traditional therapy sessions and your therapist can send their notes to your doctor for followup.
2. Make a Phone Call
Sometimes, when you are having a really bad day, you just need to talk to someone who understands. A helpline is designed specifically for that purpose. While not technically considered online help for postpartum depression, it’s still something that you can do from the comfort of your own home and have access to 24/7.
If you are having suicidal thoughts and need to speak to someone urgently:
On the Befrienders Worldwide website, you can search for suicide helplines by country. The website is also available in different languages and provides resources and information about mental health.
For general information, support and resources:
Call thePostpartum Support International’s Helpline1-800-944-4773 (4PPD). It’s a messaging system so you would have to leave a message and then someone would get back to you as soon as possible. It is NOT meant for emergencies, but rather, to find out where and how to get help.
3. Send a Text Message
Texting is a newer way that moms can get online help for postpartum depression and many support groups are making this an option. It is so much easier for a mother battling a mental illness to send a text message when she’s overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings, rather than speak to someone over the phone or face to face.
In the US:
Text HOME to 741741 for any type of crisis and a trained counselor from the Crisis Text Line will respond 24/7.
Text HOME to 686868to access the Crisis Text Line in Canada. This text line is managed by volunteers and is a division of the Kids Help Phone.
Text Crisis Services Canada at 45645anytime between 5 pm and 1 am and get a response from someone at the crisis center. A live chat option is also available on their website (also between 5 pm and 1 am).
Many local support groups also offer their own text line, so make sure to find out what they are and store them in your phone for emergencies.
4. Join a Facebook Support Group
Facebook support groups are a great way to get online help for postpartum depression. Not only will you be able to find some posts that you relate to, but you’ll see that you’re not alone in your struggles.
If you’re not big on communicating with strangers, it helps just to read some of the posts and comments. If you have a particular question, you can search for it in the group and see if someone else has already asked about it. It’s a great resource to get peer support and advice for postpartum depression and anxiety.
Some of the groups that I’m in and would recommend:
If you have a question about treatment options, symptoms, previous experiences – this is the place to go to get your questions answered. PSI’s support group is a mix of health care professionals, therapists, sufferers and survivors. If you have a question about anything related to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, you will find it here.
This group is a very supportive one and the perfect place to go and vent about what you’re feeling. If you just need someone to talk to or share your story with someone who will understand, then the women in this group are here for you.
What I love about this smaller group is that you really get the chance to connect with other members. If you’re seeking more than just a sounding board, and hoping to make friends and build a support system to help you through this difficult time, then consider joining this group.
5. Hire a Postpartum Doula
A postpartum doula is someone who comes to your house after you have a baby specifically to help you out. They are not like a nanny, in that, they are there to support you and not simply to take care of the baby and the house. They are trained to recognize the early symptoms of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder and can direct you where to get help. Most can be hired to work a night shift so that you can get the sleep you desperately need. I consider this a form of online help for postpartum depression because searching various websites is generally the best way to find the right doula for you.
There are several websites you can use to find a doula in your area:
You can search a database of over 10,000 doulas in Canada and the US and the best part is that you can enter the dates when you would need their services to make sure that they are available before contacting them.
6. Download an App
There are so many apps available to help with almost any kind of problem you’re experiencing. Online help for postpartum depression in the form of an app is so convenient and always at your fingertips. Instead of scrolling through social media on your phone, download a meditation or self care app to use regularly instead.
This is part of an important research study but the app provides resources for women with postpartum depression. Read more about it on the Mom Genes Fight PPD website.
MGHPDS (Massachusetts General Hospital Perinatal Depression Scale)
This is a good one for new moms who are concerned about developing postpartum depression or anxiety. It contains questionnaires to assess your mood and stress level and will remind you to take them again every few weeks so that you can document any changes. The questions are similar to those used by medical professionals to check for maternal mood disorders.
This app was originally designed by the military to help patients coping with PTSD. It’s recommended by therapists as a supplement to treatment for stress and anxiety disorders, but it can be a great tool for a mother battling postpartum depression. You have the ability to add happy photos or video memories, favorite songs and quotes and access tools for coping with stress and anxiety.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness are great ways to help with postpartum depression and anxiety. This popular meditation app is easy to use and has sessions ranging from 1 minute up to 10 minutes. It’s perfect for a busy mom with only a few minutes to spare.
Online help for postpartum depression should never be a replacement for help from a medical professional. Always make sure that your doctor knows what you are feeling.
But also, get educated. Know who to call and how to take care of yourself.
When my battle with postpartum depression began, 6 years ago, I didn’t even have a smartphone. Aside from a few brochures that I was given in my doctor’s office, I had very little information about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Now, almost anyone can access online help for postpartum depression. There is so much more information for struggling mothers, that it would be a shame to let it all go to waste.
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.
Here is some more information about intrusive thoughts.
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
Types of Intrusive Thoughts
The most common type of postpartum intrusive thoughts 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 come in the form of intrusive 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, behaving violently or setting the house on fire.
Basically, any thought or image that enters your head that feels scary and unnatural is considered an intrusive thought.
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. Intrusive thoughts can also cause panic attacks and other physical 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. Being unable to recognize the difference between intrusive thoughts and reality can signal something worse (like postpartum psychosis). If you feel a strong urge to act on your intrusive thoughts, make sure to speak to your doctor immediately.
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 someone without enough knowledge about them (even a medical professional), the consequences could be devastating. Its important to find a safe place to discuss intrusive thoughts.
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 Them
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 and connect with other women who are having them, you could even consider blogging about them.
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, try online therapy using my affiliate link: http://runningintriangles.com/OnlineTherapy).
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.
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.
The most important factor in dealing with intrusive thoughts is to know the difference between your actual thoughts and the unwanted ones.
Having frightening 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.
Mothers with postpartum depression began to reach out to me, stating that it spoke to them and they realized their reasons were not insane or unreasonable. These mothers also felt like they wanted to tell their story but didn’t know how or where to begin.
It inspired me to create a safe place for women to share their postpartum depression stories, without judgement, or requirements or any degree of difficulty.
Speaking up and sharing my own story and the stories of other women turned Running in Triangles into a beacon of light for those women who were lost and suffering in the darkness.
Over the past couple years, I’ve had the chance to connect and interact with so many women who have had or are currently suffering from postpartum depression and other maternal mental health disorders.
One thing that so many of them had in common was the fact that they stayed silent for so much longer than they should have. And there are so many more than 9 reasons why these women chose not to speak up about what they were feeling…
Here is a list of over 50 reasons why mothers don’t speak up about postpartum depression.
1. We are in denial
2. We don’t even know we have it
3. We’re not 100% certain that we have it
4. We haven’t been officially diagnosed
5. We don’t think it’s as bad as it actually is
6. We just aren’t ready to admit it yet
7. We think this is “normal” motherhood
8. We don’t think it’s a big deal
9. We don’t want to make it seem like we’re suffering more than any other mother
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. There are still several ways to help a mother with postpartum depression, even if she tries to push you away.
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.
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. Often, it can be hard to tell the difference between the common baby blues and a real mental health disorder unless you know what to look for. The best way to help a mother with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety is to recognize the symptoms. Even if she doesn’t want to talk about it, you can get her the help she needs.
[Think you or someone you love might have postpartum depression? Check out this post to find out what to do next.]
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. Sometimes, just being on her team is the best way to help a mother with postpartum depression.
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.
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 can have the opposite effect. Your horror stories won’t help a mother with postpartum depression, only cause added stress. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Checking in and asking how she’s feeling is a great way to help a mother with postpartum depression. A text message will allow her to reply when SHE feels up to it. You can even include 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.
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.
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.
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 unnecessary stress and 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 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.
12. Help her find strangers to talk to
Don’t try to force her to talk to you about her feelings. Sometimes, the best way to help a mother with postpartum depression is to find someone else she can talk to. It’s much easier to talk to strangers who understand and won’t judge her. She can be completely honest and vulnerable without having to worry about hurting someone’s feelings.
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.
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 and 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.
Reassure her that you will never show them to anyone else or post them anywhere, they are only for her.
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.
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. 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 certain when it comes to postpartum depression. Many women experience it in different ways. The best way to help a mother with postpartum depression is just to love her and support her and don’t ever give up on her.