Disclaimer :: This post is sponsored by Leslie T. Herhold Counseling Services for Women:Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Beyond.
How to Help a Friend Struggling with Postpartum Depression
With current prevalence rates estimated at over one in seven women, chances are we all know someone personally who has struggled with symptoms of anxiety and depression after having a baby, or maybe we have experienced these symptoms ourselves.
There is nothing more heart wrenching than watching a loved one suffer, feeling helpless because we are unable to make it all better.
Add a baby to the equation, as in postpartum depression, and the desire to help becomes so very urgent. Women with PPD experience very distressing symptoms of anxiety and depression, with interrupted maternal bonding, guilt and self-doubt all along for the ride.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Ask her how SHE is doing, rather than asking about the baby. Be as non-judgemental and supportive as possible. Do not minimize her distressing thoughts and feelings as “normal.” What may be a common symptom of PPD is not what is considered a normal occurrence in the postpartum period.
- Bring a home-cooked (or, let’s be real here, store-bought) meal in containers that do not need to be washed and returned. Paper plates and plastic utensils would be an added bonus.
- Go on a grocery run for her. Pick up apples, granola bars, and other healthy snacks that can be eaten quickly.
- Offer to watch the baby so she can take a nap.
- Offer to take her other children for a couple of hours.
- Help out with household chores when you visit.
- Encourage her to go on a walk with you, or meet you for coffee on a Saturday morning without the baby.
- Make her laugh.
- Keep in contact with her. Do not let her isolate herself.
- Tell her this is not her fault, that she is a good mother.
When should you seek further medical attention for you or a loved one?
Encourage your loved one to call her OB if she is more than 2 weeks postpartum and symptoms are causing a great deal of distress, such as panic attacks, sleep issues, decreased appetite, frequent crying, intrusive thoughts, and excessive worry. Medication and therapy have been proven to be highly effective in decreasing symptoms and leading to emotional recovery. If you notice any symptoms that scare you, such as catatonia (extremely flat affect, staring at nothing, not really moving or reacting, in a stupor), hearing or seeing things that are not there, any very odd behaviors or delusional thinking, like she has lost touch with reality, seek immediate medical attention on her behalf. These are symptoms of postpartum psychosis, which is an extremely rare emergency in the postpartum period. Any suicidal thoughts must also be brought to the attention of a medical professional immediately.
Maternal mental health has become a worldwide focus, and there are many resources available right here in Acadiana. With help, your loved one will be well.