If you know someone who may be struggling with postpartum depression, it can be hard to comprehend how best to support them. This blog aims to help you better understand their condition and explores some things you could do to help.
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that affects about one in 10 mothers within a year of giving birth. However, fathers and partners can also experience postpartum depression.
Individuals with postpartum depression may experience sadness, reduced energy, and a lack of connection with their baby. They may feel overwhelmed with responsibility or experience guilt that they don't love their child.
While postpartum depression can be extremely difficult for a mother, father, or partner, there are things you can do to improve symptoms. Rest and relaxation can help with postpartum depression, as can professional treatment such as therapy and medication. Anyone struggling can fully recover and feel good again with the right treatment.
Physicians and researchers have long debated whether postpartum depression is significantly different from mild depression or major depressive disorder occurring in a different period. While evidence suggests that postpartum depression occurring within the first eight weeks of birth may have significantly different characteristics, no definition considers postpartum depression and major depression truly distinct conditions other than the period.
When a woman gives birth, it's normal for her to experience a short dip in mood. After all, her hormones suddenly drop, she feels tired, and she is recovering from physical pain post-birth. A new mom may also feel scared or anxious about the task of raising a child.
This dip in mood, known as baby blues, is something 80% of new moms experience. Baby blues usually begin two to three days after a baby is born and may last one to two weeks. If feelings of depression last longer than two weeks, the new mom may be experiencing postpartum depression, which manifests differently from baby blues.
Symptoms of baby blues may include:
On the other hand, symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
If your partner, friend, or family member is experiencing postpartum depression, you can do a few things to support them.
Speak to the mother and listen to her feelings. Try not to focus on the baby and make sure she knows you care about her. Give her the attention and space to talk about how she feels and the difficulties she experiences.
Take care to validate her feelings. Instead of responding with "you're a great mom," let her know that you appreciate her experience and the difficult emotions she is feeling. Her emotions may be contradictory and confusing to her - you should let her know that's okay. Never judge her feelings - they may be very difficult for her to express, and she needs to feel safe.
If you suspect that someone you love is struggling with postpartum depression, try not to tell her what to do or offer advice. Instead, support her in the decisions she makes.
When mothers go to postnatal classes, they often focus on the baby's needs and overlook the mother. By accompanying her, you can help advocate for her and ensure that her concerns are heard too. Bring up anything you know she is concerned about that the physician may fail to address.
Celebrating small successes can help support someone with postpartum depression. While a baby is unable to praise and thank their mother for their efforts, you can. Offer praise, enthusiasm, and support if the baby has gone to sleep, has fed well, or has grown up a little.
Simply telling a mother with postpartum depression that you're there if she needs you isn't always helpful. Often mothers don't realize their needs or appreciate that they are tired and need support.
Instead of asking what you can do, just do something. Offer to care for the baby and let the mother know she could have a nap, shower, or do something else she may need to do. Help with other household tasks like cleaning, laundry, cooking, and shopping. This will relieve pressure from the mother and help her regain energy and strength.
If you know a mom who may be struggling with postpartum depression, make sure you validate her feelings. Don't tell her to "stay positive" or that it will "get better soon" - these comments make light of the difficulties she may be experiencing. You should also avoid giving her advice on how to raise her child or manage other aspects of her life.
While many people assume only mothers experience postpartum depression, fathers can also struggle with the condition. Research has found that up to one in 10 fathers become depressed after having a child.
Postpartum depression in fathers may result from lifestyle changes, hormonal changes, and guilt about what their partner is experiencing.
Below we answer a number of common questions surrounding postpartum depression.
Having a baby inevitably causes permanent changes to the way you think and interact with the world. It also produces new stresses, joys, and perspectives.
In many ways, it doesn't make sense to talk about 'mentally recovering' from childbirth. However, we can say that things like baby blues usually last for up to two weeks, whereas the peak time for postpartum depression is three to six months.
The postpartum period has three phases. The initial phase occurs six to 12 hours after birth, the second phase lasts around six weeks, and the third 'delayed' phase can last up to six months.
Most physical changes take place during the first and second phases, with minor changes during the third phase.
Postpartum depression can develop for many reasons, and everyone's experience of the illness is different. While it is impossible to predict who will develop postpartum depression, there are a few things you can do to help prevent it, such as:
Visiting a physician or mental health professional for a postpartum depression screening in the first few weeks after childbirth can help diagnose the condition early and lead to a quicker recovery.
The most effective way to treat postpartum depression is through professional help. Mental health professionals can offer talk therapy to help individuals recover from perinatal mood disorders, including postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and baby postpartum psychosis. You can also attend support groups with other mothers to provide mutual emotional support, advice, and find comfort in a shared experience.
Postpartum Support International is an organization that aims to increase awareness among public and professional communities about the changes women experience after childbirth and women's mental health issues. It helps provide information, resources, and education, and advocates for further research and legislation to support perinatal mental health.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, contact us today. GIA Miami is a world-leading mental health and substance abuse treatment center that offers innovative and bespoke treatment programs to every client. We combine clinical excellence with compassionate care to provide sensitive and expert support so you can be the person you want to be.
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