Depression after childbirth can be overwhelming and isolating. In the midst of becoming a mother, new moms are exposed to many new challenges. In addition to the responsibilities of caring for a newborn, many new mothers experience lack of sleep and breast pain as a result of nursing.
Additionally, the hormone levels of pregnant women increase even more during this time. As a result, these heightened hormone levels drop suddenly after pregnancy and may contribute to a condition called postpartum depression. This form of depression is called postpartum or postnatal depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Post Natal Depression is typically characterized by symptoms of sadness, fatigue, irritability and even a disinterest in life events. Post Natal Depression can be a serious mood disorder that is comparable to Major Depressive Disorder. Post Natal Depression can be diagnosed as early as 4 weeks after the birth of a baby and can last as late as one year postpartum.
Like every mood disorder, there is much more to consider than just the symptoms. In order to truly understand its complexity, Post Natal Depression can be better understood through the lens of biology, psychology, and society norms and cultures – see more here Post Natal Depression.
If someone you know is suffering with postpartum depression, you may be wondering how to help. Here are some ways that you can be supportive and some tips for helping someone with postpartum depression.
1. Remind Her This is Temporary
Women who suffer from postpartum depression often fear that they will never feel the same way again after the birth of their children. After validating and understanding their feelings, ensuring they feel heard and understood, consider beginning a gentle conversation around feelings being temporary. Try and support her to understand that the feelings she is experiencing are symptoms, not who she is. The difficulties won’t last forever and with time, treatment and understanding, she will be able to notice changes in her feelings. If she feels discouraged, remind her that postpartum feelings fluctuate and it’s important she takes notice of how feelings have always changed and will continue to change.
2. Listen to Her Feelings
If you know someone who needs some postpartum depression help, they probably feel guilty, sad, alone, and like they aren’t a good mother. It is possible that they might feel postpartum anxiety or even anger after giving birth.
Feelings like these should not be ignored. Listen to her instead and show her that you care for her. When you are there listening, try to understand what she is going through without judging or invalidating her feelings, she will feel more supported and safe.
3. Reassure Her
Postpartum depression can manifest as difficulty in bonding with your baby, an inability to feel like a good mother, and feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy. If you’re wondering how to help someone overcome postpartum depression, be sure to listen to her and reassure her. Let her know that even though she may not feel like one, she is an excellent parent. It can be hugely helpful for a woman with postpartum depression to receive this kind of reassurance.
4. Make Specific Plans
Another way to offer postpartum depression help is to find specific things that you can do to support the mother and her family. Often, people may say, “Let me know how I can help,” but due to the fact that mums suffering from postpartum depression already feel inadequate and are too dependent on others, they won’t even try.
Instead, offer specific ways to help at specific times. It may mean bringing dinner one night or watching the baby for a few hours so that mum can sleep. You should make concrete plans and follow through with them.
5. Don’t Compare
When you are trying to help someone with postpartum depression and you have children, don’t compare your experience with theirs. Often mothers with postpartum depression already feel like they are not good mothers. Consider refraining from statements like, “When I had my baby, I did this,” or “If you do this, you will feel better.” Instead, ask more curious questions about their feelings and what they think might be contributing to the way they feel.
6. Support Her Decisions
In order to ease a mother’s postpartum depression, the best thing you can do is support her decisions – Let her build her confidence that she has the capacity to parent and feel better in the future. Lots of others may provide unsolicited advice, consider refraining from this and be more open to her journey and the choices she makes along the way.
An example might be that a mother decides to stop breastfeeding. If you are a husband, discuss this with your wife and make sure she feels supported if this is what she needs. If you are a friend offering postpartum depression help, it’s also important to support this decision. Again, don’t compare it to another mother’s experience, especially yours.
Post Natal Depression has so many complicated factors that are intertwined. It is hard to pinpoint a singular cause or find a “sure way” to prevent it. The important thing is to normalise this condition and give women the strength to ask for help. Perhaps the conversation can help reduce the societal impacts that contribute to Postpartum Depression. Also note that men can also experience similar feelings after becoming a father, don’t overlook their feelings but rather apply the same approach to appreciate, understand and support them through their journey.
If you’re a close relative or friend of the mother, you might be providing significant emotional and practical support on a daily basis. By constantly looking out for a loved one, you may find yourself in need of someone to lean on as well. Ensure you are looking after yourself too.