For those who have never had a baby, it’s difficult to imagine the emotional (and physical) rollercoaster associated with growing a person, giving birth to them, and caring for them as a helpless infant. Yes, people do it every day, (and have for some time), but many underestimate the difficulties and unexpected side effects that can occur from having a child. One of the most invisible, yet devastating side effects is postpartum depression, and as a new mom’s friend or loved one, there’s a lot you can do to help.
What is Postpartum Depression?
While “Baby Blues” are universally common for a short time after giving birth, Postpartum Depression is something more severe and typically more lasting, often requiring treatment. One in seven people who give birth experience postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms Include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Intense irritability and anger
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms Can Also Include:
- Excessive crying
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
If you think your friend, family member, or loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, here are some ways you can support them.
1. Help Her Coordinate Her Community: While everyone offers “to help” after a new baby is born, it is often overwhelming to ask after a few sleepless nights, when life becomes a blur of caring for the baby and dealing with postpartum depression. Visit with your friend and help her set up a system of care through a service like Give InKind so she can schedule and ask for the exact kind of help she needs.
2. Announce You’re Going on a “Store Run”: Tell her you’re going to the store this afternoon, or tomorrow morning, and ask her what kinds of diapers she wants you to pick up (as well as any formula, wipes, clothing, etc). Have her be specific, and make a list.
3. Plan a Weekly “Helping Hands” Visit: If your friend is open to weekly help, let your friend know that you’ll be there to help clean, talk, cook, etc. every Wednesday at noon (or pick a day that works for both of you), for the next 8 weeks (or however long you can). During this time, do whatever it is that she needs help with; laundry, dishes, changing the baby, babysitting while she gets out of the house for an hour. Whatever it is, be consistent, and supportive. If you live in another state, consider purchasing a gift card for a house cleaning service to visit weekly.
4. Help Her Find a Babysitter: Mama needs a break now and then, and not everyone has someone else at home to watch the baby if she needs a night off. Help your friend get some time to herself now and then by helping her find a qualified local babysitter.
5. Help Her Find a Support Network: Talking with other parents who have just gone through birth and are in the pangs of late-night feedings and 24/7 baby care can be helpful and therapeutic.
6. Offer to Help Your Friend Find a Therapist in Her Network: Taking some of the research off of your friend’s plate can be helpful if your friend is open to therapy. Resources like Psychology Today have contact information of therapists in every state, and let you sort by therapist specialty, insurance provider, etc.
Should They See a Doctor?
Postpartum Depression (and Postpartum Psychosis) are very real and should be monitored and taken seriously for the health of parents and babies and other family members. There is no shame in getting help if you need it.
If a parent’s symptoms are getting worse, or if the symptoms don’t go away after two weeks, an appointment should be made with their doctor. If the parent finds it hard to complete everyday tasks, or care for their baby, or themselves, they should see their doctor. If they are having thoughts of harming themselves or the baby, get help right away.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for those who need it, at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Support Your Friend
Your friend may be reclusive and withdrawn at this time, but check in on them, and help them get the support, love, and care they need as they work through postpartum depression and, hopefully, into a better mental state.
How Give InKind Can Help
Give InKind is an intelligent social support platform that helps friends and family coordinate tangible, financial, and emotional support for those who need it. Everyone goes through major life events, and everyone needs a little help sometimes. From the birth of a baby to loss of a family member, to medical crisis and disasters, people need more than just money and lasagna. Every individual or family in need is different. Give InKind helps people coordinate help with things like dinner dropoffs, walking the dog, picking kids up from school, buying groceries, and watering plants. Give InKind lets givers provide or send specific services or assistance that helps those they care about focus on what matters. Article contributed by Jennifer Jacobson for Give InKind.