When you recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in a friend or loved one, you might not know what to do. You might feel like it’s not your business. You might not want to upset her more. You might feel like it’s someone else’s job.
Or you might just save her life.
These six simple things can help you help someone you love.
It’s not fun to sit down with someone you love and ask, “Are you feeling depressed?” Those dealing with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders often go through six stages of dealing with it, and the first few are denial and anger.
So prepare yourself for a little bit of “NUH UH” and a little bit of “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.”
It’s okay. That’s the mood disorder talking, not your friend. Print out the New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help and take it with you. If she kicks you out, just leave it on the table. If she’s receptive to your message, go over the checklist with her.
The truth is, most new moms (and even seasoned moms) don’t recognize all the different symptoms of postpartum depression. They don’t often know about postpartum anxiety, OCD, bipolar, or any of the cousin mood disorders that can occur in that first year postpartum.
If she gets mad, she’ll get over it in time. But if no one else in her life is talking to her about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, someone needs to do so.
And don’t just offer blankly. “If you need any help, call me.” She’s not going to call you. Asking for help while dealing with postpartum depression feels almost impossible.
Instead, offer tangible things. Offer to come help her catch up on laundry, including the folding part. Offer to bring meals for a week or start a food train. Offer to research local postpartum depression support groups to see if any might feel like a good fit for her.
Offer Real Support
Different than offering help, offering support means attending her doctor or therapist appointments with her, if only to sit in the waiting room. Offering to babysit while she’s attending these appointments. Sit and listen while she talks through the scary thoughts in her head; do so without judgment.
Many moms experiencing postpartum depression feel like they’re not “good enough” or that they’re “failing at being a mom.” They’re not. Their brains just can’t find the positive in their parenting just yet.
When you see her taking care of her child, compliment the way she does something. And mean it. It’s hard to mother when you are in the depths of PPD. Whether she’s still breastfeeding or bottle feeding, tell her you’re proud of her. Tell her she’s doing a great job. She is. Parenting through the haze of PPD is hard.
Help Her Employ Self-Care
Self-care remains one of the hardest things for moms—in general—to incorporate into their daily life. For a mom experiencing a PMAD, it can feel impossible.
Ask her what self-care looks and feels like for her. If it’s taking a walk, go for a walk with her. If it’s yoga, either go to class with her or offer to watch the baby while she gets her om on. If it’s coloring, bring her some new, fun coloring books.
And remind her, a lot, that not only is it okay to take time for yourself, it’s absolutely necessary for her recovery.
Repeatedly Tell Her She’s Not Alone
Whether you experienced a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder yourself or not, you can let your loved one know she’s not alone. You can point her to the hundreds upon hundreds of Warrior Mom stories here on our site. You can send her to our Facebook page which is teeming with moms who are in all stages of recovery and just want to connect with other moms. You can let her know about our private forum where she can talk more in depth about her experience.
Remind her that 1 in 7 moms experience postpartum depression. That it’s not her fault. That she didn’t “do” anything to get it. That postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. And that she’s never, ever alone.
PPD can feel so very isolating, so a constant reminder that other mothers with PMADs exist—and that they want to help—can feel like a light in the dark.
And of course, let her know she has you. Whoever you are in her life, you recognized that she needed help, needed support, needed encouragement. You matter in her story. Thank you for being there for her.