Be There Without Trying To Problem
Most moms dont want their problems solved. They dont want the solutions outlined. Instead, they want to know that you hear them, that you see validity in their experiences, and that you are there for them even in the messy moments.
Just listen to her and let her know that you hear what shes saying.
Remind Them Theyre A Good Parent
Two symptoms of PPD include feelings of guilt and internal criticism . Getting help with PPD starts with recognizing that youre a good mother, says Dr. Karp. You gave birth to a precious new life, and you deserve to have help.
We can help our loved ones by simply reminding them they are good parents, and that theyre doing everything right.
We can help our loved ones by simply reminding them they are good parents, and that theyre doing everything right. Send texts, drop off cards, or pick up the phone.
Create Time For Yourself
You may feel stuck on the couch breast-feeding. Maybe youre feeling overwhelmed by work, household responsibilities, or your older children. Instead of dealing with these stresses alone, reach out for help. Take up your mother-in-law on her offer of free babysitting. Let your partner or another trusted adult take the baby for an hour or two.
You may find it helpful to schedule some dedicated me time once a week. Even if you can only get out of the house between nursing sessions, you can use this time to decompress. Go on a walk, take a nap, go to a movie, or do some yoga and meditation.
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What Causes Postpartum Depression
Like other types of depression, postpartum depression is a complex disorder that is likely caused by numerous factors. There isnt just one cause of PPDor any type of depression, for that matter. But there are two factors that make PPD different and that dont necessarily apply to other types of depression:1,2
- Hormonal changes that peak the third trimester of pregnancy and then drop dramatically.1, 2
- Lifestyle changes from having a newborn that can be physically and emotionally taxingsleep deprivation, new responsibilities, stress, and anxiety can all contribute to postpartum depression.
Beyond these, however, there are genetic and environmental underpinnings that may make you more vulnerable to developing PPD, including:1, 6
- Previous history of depression or postpartum depression
- Family history of depression or postpartum depression
- Depression during pregnancy
- Preterm labor and delivery
- Pregnancy and birth complications
- Having a baby who has been hospitalized
Of these, two risk factors stand out: Having a prior episode of postpartum depression and experiencing depression during pregnancy, says Katherine Taljan, MD, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. About half of women who are later diagnosed with PPD begin showing symptoms during pregnancy, according to the American Psychological Association.3
Remind Them Of Their Individuality
We can also remind parents of their individuality and offer them time and space to practice actives they loved before having a baby. Having children can be a beautiful and transformative experience, but it can also be a startling transition.
Art helped, one mother, who is also an artist, tells me. I found an hour a day to do little drawingsit brought me joy and some stillness. Having an hour sometimes helps me feel like my old self.
Your loved one is now a parent, but they are also more than a parentand thats okay! Try encouraging them to find small moments for alone time and individuality. Offer to watch the baby while they work on creative projects or engage in activities that make them feel like themselves. Support them as they learn to balance who they were with who they now are.
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I Felt That Id Done Harder Things And I Could Just Cope
I didnt truly understand that I was suffering from PPD for at least a year after the birth of my only son. But I started to feel sad and anxious right away. I had very low self-esteem and doubt about being a good enough mother. I was angry and frustrated, and I cried a lot. At the same time, it was mixed in with joy at the birth of my healthy son plus a lack of sleep and the drastic change of becoming a stay-at-home mom after working full-time and it was difficult to parse out my emotions.
I had seen a therapist a few years prior for depression, although I hadnt been for years. I went to see her again when my son was about 10 weeks old. She said I had PPD and told me I was at 30 percent higher risk of becoming depressed after giving birth as I had a depressive episode before. Because I didnt think I needed that much help, I didnt go to therapy consistently. I believed her and was glad to get a name for it, but I felt that Id done harder things in my life and I could just cope. I also felt ashamed. I kept it a secret 26 years ago, PPD wasnt talked about the way it is now.
Because of my experiences with PPD, I studied complementary methods of healing to become a licensed massage therapist and professional counselor. In 1997, I went to school to study shiatsu and acupressure, and then I studied birth hypnosis and doula work. I studied psychology and got my masters degree, becoming a licensed psychotherapist in 2004.
How Do You Know If Someone Has Postpartum Depression
Its important to remember that depression is not a one-size-fits-all illness. Different symptoms will present themselves in various ways depending on the person. All that to say, dont write someone off if they have one symptom but not another.
One warning sign is enough to help someone suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety.
To recognize whether your wife, friend, family member, or yourself has postpartum depression, consider asking yourself these questions:
- Are they exhausted beyond being a new mom? Does their fatigue seem endless without small moments of energy?
- Do they seem distant from you and/or their baby?
- Do they seem eager to take care of the baby or does it look like its more of a chore?
- Are they crying more than usual? Is it impacting their day-to-day routine?
- Is she a new version of her own self or a different person entirely?
- Do they appear angry at the world, you, or even the baby? Are they screaming or cussing more than usual?
I want you to know you arent alone. My husband noticed my postpartum depression and anxiety by first recognizing my rage. To read more about his experience with my postpartum rage, click here. I was sad and depressed on the inside, yet on the outside I was screaming and cursing out my husband.
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How To Help Your Wifes Postpartum Depression
Its important to note that moms often feel touched-out, even more so when theyre depressed or anxious. She might not want cuddles or anything *more* for awhile. And thats okay! Be patient with her. Tell her shes loved. And follow the tips about to help her cope with her postpartum mood disorder.
How Doespostpartum Depression Differ From The Baby Blues
After childbirth, a womans body undergoes a massive hormonal shift. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone peak during the last trimester of pregnancy, and then plummet back to normal pre-pregnancy levels after delivery.2 New mothers also undergo dramatic changes to their lifestyle The difficulties of this transition and the hormonal changes in the body are thought to play a role in the development of baby blues and postpartum depression.1
The baby blues is a short-term effect of the hormonal fluctuations that begin in the days immediately following childbirth. As many as 50 to 75% of new moms experience it. The baby blues can cause mood swings, feelings of sadness and anxiety, crying spells, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping, but these feelings usually start to subside within 3 to 5 days and are gone in two weeks.
Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression is a severe, more persistent condition that needs treatment.2, 10 By various estimates, it affects between 15 and 20% of new moms.3, 6, 10 Causes likely go deeper than the usual range of hormonal and lifestyle changes .
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Listen To Her Feelings
If you know someone who needs some postpartum depression help, they probably are feeling alone, guilty, sad, and like they arent a good mother. They may even be feeling postpartum anxiety or anger. Dont ignore these feelings. Instead, you can offer ppd support by listening to her and showing her that you are there for her 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.
When Its More Than Baby Blues
The first month seemed to be nothing but bliss, and then it hit, my sister tells me about her postpartum depression. For five months, I found myself in the trenchesIm still there. Its been the darkest season in my life emotionally. My husband and daughter have seen me at my worst. I have seen myself at my worst.
Shes not alone. About 20 percent of new moms and 10 percent of new dads experience postpartum depression and anxiety, says Dr. Harvey Karp, an American pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Happiest Baby. During COVID, those numbers have nearly doubled.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a type of depression experienced in the weeks and months following a baby’s arrival. It different than the baby blues, a sadness and moodiness that often occur for only a few days after birth.
About 20 percent of new moms and 10 percent of new dads experience postpartum depression and anxiety.
PPD shows up differently than depression, according to Dr. Karp, who explains its often characterized by nagging guilt, internal criticism, intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and the desire to run away. These symptoms arent always obvious to new parents, and they can be even harder to detect if youre a family member or friend.
It ebbs and flows, my sister shares. You may feel fine one day, and then something that wouldnt normally trigger you sets you off.
We can support our loved ones in their postpartum journey by listening, learning, and reaching out.
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Who Is Affected By Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is common. As many as 50 to 75% of new mothers experience the “baby blues” after delivery. Up to 15% of these women will develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression, called postpartum depression, after delivery. One in 1,000 women develop the more serious condition called postpartum psychosis.
Hang Out With Her Older Child
If this is a second baby, moms dont get the same opportunity to rest or get things done when the baby naps as they perhaps did with their first baby so offering to take her older one can be a big help. If you have a similar age child, frame it as helping you out too to have a playmate for your child, as this can help lessen her possible mom guilt.
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Risk Factors For Depression
Experiences that may put some women at a higher risk for depression can include
- Stressful live events.
- Being a mom to multiples, like twins, or triplets.
- Being a teen mom.
- Preterm labor and delivery.
- Pregnancy and birth complications.
- Having a baby who has been hospitalized.
Depression can also occur among women with a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Supporting Your Loved One
- Know the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression.
- Encourage her to talk to her GP, public health nurse or counsellor and offer to go with her to appointments.
- Let her express her true feelings.
- Listen with empathy, don’t criticise her.
- Make sure she eats enough and gets rest.
- Encourage her to do some exercise or go for a walk together.
- Take the baby out for a walk to give her a break.
- Plan activities as a couple away from the baby.
- Ask family and friends for support by making meals, doing laundry or babysitting.
- Limit the number of visitors if she is feeling overwhelmed.
- Tell her she is a great mother and doing great.
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Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
How often postpartum depression symptoms occur, how long they last, and how intense they feel can be different for each person. The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms for depression, but may also include:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.
Tips For Supporting A Mom With Postpartum Depression
by Katherine Stone |
Ive been depressed on and off for a good portion of my life. Talking to my doctor, Id say it started right around the time I was 15 years old. Things werent going well at home, puberty was raging full-force, and I didnt really have anyone I could talk to I felt really paranoid that if I told anyone anything bad, theyd tell my parents. Those times were particularly dark not only because I had no idea why I felt so hopeless and inadequate, but also because I had no one to tell me that what I was experiencing wasnt my fault I had virtually no support.
I cant even imagine how different my life would have been if Id had a support network, like the one Ive found in the online community. Would I have nearly flunked out of my freshman year of high school? Would I have been sent away from home to live with near-strangers during the most formative years of my adolescence? Theres no way of knowing for sure, but Id like to think my life might have been very different.
I am lucky. I know this. I survived depression, postpartum depression, and antenatal depression. I have a loving spouse and two beautiful children. But all this doesnt stop me from wondering if I might have made better choices and lived a better life if those around me had had any inkling of what was going on in my head during my depressive episodes.
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Postpartum Depression Recovery Timelines
Due to the personal nature of postpartum depression, there is no definite recovery timeline. While most cases heal within one year after symptoms begin, many women might still experience postpartum depression symptoms years after their onset.
The most important aspect of ensuring the smoothest recovery possible is adhering to and adjusting your postpartum depression treatment plan. The more proactive you are in regards to your own health, the sooner you will likely recover from postpartum depression. Women who leave their symptoms unaddressed and untreated can suffer from long-term postpartum depression.
Helping A New Mother With Postpartum Depression
If your loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, the best thing you can do is to offer support. Give her a break from childcare duties, provide a listening ear, and be patient and understanding.
You also need to take care of yourself. Dealing with the needs of a new baby is hard for the partner as well as the mother. And if your significant other is depressed, you are dealing with two major stressors.
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How Can Other People Help
This page is for family and friends who want to support someone experiencing a perinatal mental health problem.
If your partner is pregnant or recently gave birth and you’re worried about your own mental health during this time, see our page on partners’ mental health.
It might feel upsetting and frustrating if someone close to you is experiencing a perinatal mental health problem. But it’s important not to blame them for how they are feeling.
Some people who experience perinatal mental health problems might not want to ask for help. This may be out of fear that they are judged as a bad parent, or because they worry that their baby will be taken away from them.
You may want to reassure them that many people have these experiences, and that they can get better. Here are some ways you can help:
Starting A Conversation About Postpartum Depression
Worried about starting this conversation with your friend? Taff says its always better to offer to have a conversation than to not say anything at all.
However, offer to have the conversation and then respect your friends decision, she adds. Some people really crave the ability to share all they are feeling, while others will just want to avoid the topic altogether. If they dont want to talk, then dont talk. Even if you have the best intentions, pressuring someone to talk will not make them feel supported.
And how should you start that conversation? Try starting with telling that person how much you care for them. The use of I statements come in handy here, Taff says.
Some examples of conversation starters could be:
- I really care about you and I think you are such a great mom. Ive noticed you mentioned that things are really hard right now. Id love to talk with you about whatever is going on.
- Ive noticed that you seem to be tearing up when we talk. Is everything ok with you?
- How are you doing now that you are a mom? Ive noticed that some of my other friends really started struggling at this point in time postpartum. I wanted to check-in and see how you are doing.
Before entering into any conversation, Taff adds that its good to check the nature of your relationship with this person as well. For example, if youre really close and have talked about deep subjects before, then you can definitely give your friend an outlet to talk about their symptoms.
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