New moms encounter a lot of new challenges as they begin motherhood. On top of having a new baby to care for, many new mothers face lack of sleep, and possibly even breast pain from nursing. Even more, during pregnancy, hormone levels in women rise. However, after pregnancy, these heightened hormone levels drop suddenly and can trigger a type of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth. This form of depression is called postpartum depression.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is actually more common than you might think, with about 1 in 9 women experiencing it. Postpartum depression can begin anytime during the baby’s first year but is most common for new mothers to feel the effects during the first 3 weeks after birth. Different than the “baby blues” which typically only last a week or two, if symptoms and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and guilt persist, it may be postpartum depression.
If someone you know is suffering, you may be wondering how to help someone with postpartum depression. Here are some tips for helping someone with postpartum depression:
1. Listen to Her Feelings
If you know someone who needs some postpartum depression help, they probably are feeling alone, guilty, sad, and like they aren’t a good mother. They may even be feeling postpartum anxiety or anger. Don’t ignore these feelings. Instead listen to her and show her that you are there for her. By being there for her and trying to understand what she is going through without judging or invalidating her feelings, she will feel more safe and supported.
2. Don’t Compare
If you are trying to help someone with postpartum depression and you have children, don’t compare your experience to theirs. Don’t say things like, “When I had a baby, this is what I did,” or “If you do this, you will feel better.” Many mothers with postpartum depression already feel like they are not a good mom or are less than other mothers. By comparing your situations, you may only be amplifying the guilt and shame.
3. Remind Her This is Temporary
When a woman is experiencing postpartum depression, it can seem like she will never feel like herself again. Remind her that this is not true. Tell her that these things she is feeling are only her symptoms, not her. They won’t last forever and with treatment she can overcome this struggle. It will take time, but postpartum depression is a medical condition, so make sure you remind her of this when she is feeling discouraged.
4. Make Specific Plans
Another way to offer postpartum depression help is to find specific things you can do for the mother and her family. It’s easy to say, “Let me know how I can help,” or other open ended statements, but because moms with postpartum depression are already feeling like they aren’t enough and depending on others too much, they will never speak up. Instead offer specific ways to help at specific times. This may mean bringing dinner over one night, or watching the baby for a few hours so mom can sleep. Make concrete plans and follow through.
5. Reassure Her
Some symptoms of postpartum depression include difficulty bonding with your baby, fear that you’re not a good mother, and feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy. So, if you’re wondering how to help someone with postpartum depression, try listening and reassuring her. Tell her that she is a good mom even if she doesn’t feel like she is. This type of reassurance can be huge for a mother with postpartum depression.
6. Support Her Decisions
If a mother is seeking treatment, one of the best ways you can help with her postpartum depression is by supporting her decisions- specifically the ones she has made with her doctors. When being treated for postpartum depression, a doctor might suggest some form of medication. If a woman experiencing postpartum depression and her doctor decide on taking medication, support this decision.
Also, a mother may decide 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.
7. Notice the Small Things
If you are trying to help someone with postpartum depression, one seemingly small way of helping that can actually make a big difference is to point out evidence that she is recovering. Notice when she smiles and let her know. This will help her see that things are getting better too. These small things may seem insignificant, but they aren’t.
Offering Postpartum Depression Help
Whether you are a husband, a friend, or a family member, everyone can help someone with postpartum depression in some way. Even the small things count. So, figure out what you can do for your loved one to help them during this difficult time. From babysitting for an hour while mom takes a nap to sending a text reminding her that you love her, it all makes a difference.
At Highland Springs Specialty Clinic, we offer leading postpartum depression treatment for mothers in Utah. Our therapists use an integrated approach including both medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy. Both prescribers and therapists work with the patient to create a plan that is unique to the individual. If you know someone who needs treatment, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.