Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Few Simple Ways to Help Someone Experiencing Postpartum Depression

This post concludes my series on postpartum depression (PPD).  My first post was about my struggle with PPD.  The second post included tips and ideas for dealing with postpartum depression.  Today, I wanted to look at a few ways to help someone who is experiencing PPD.

Postpartum depression affects 1 in 10 women after having a baby.  It's likely that someone you know - a daughter, sister, friend, or acquaintance - has experienced or will experience PPD.  Here are a few risk factors and symptoms you might see in someone you love.

Risk Factors:
Major life changes: death, move, job change, etc.
Personal or family history of depression
Pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding complications
Lack of support system
Financial worries
Marital strife
Lack of sleep

Symptoms to look for:
Feeling sad or depressed
Feeling angry
Eating too little or too much
Sleeping too much or too little
Not taking care of herself (showering, getting dressed, etc.)
Lack of interest in the baby
Trouble concentrating
Feeling hopeless
Possibly having thoughts of harming the baby or herself

There are many more risk factors and symptoms.  Check out Postpartum Support International for other risk factors, symptoms, and resources.

If your friend, sister, daughter, or other loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, here are a few ways you can help:

Don't disregard her feelings:  You may not understand them, but they are very real and can feel very scary to a new mom.  If you haven't experienced it yourself, it is easy to think someone should "just get over it."  That is definitely NOT what a mom with PPD needs to hear.  Allow her to talk about her struggles and just listen.

Help around the house:  Having a new baby is overwhelming by itself.  Adding postpartum depression on top of that can make things much more difficult.  Offer to cook, clean, or do laundry, so the mother doesn't have to worry about those things.

Watch the baby (and/or older children):  I would've given anything for a few hours of uninteruppted rest.  Volunteer to watch the baby at her home.  Especially if the mom is nursing, there won't be a lot of time for her to drop off the baby, go home to rest, and then come back to pick-up the baby. 

However, if there are older children, it might be helpful to take them somewhere.  That way she can sleep while the baby sleeps (if the baby sleeps)!

Point her to places where she can find help:  Like me, she may feel unable to seek help herself.  Do some of your own research.  Point her to a doctor, counselor, another mother who has experienced PPD, online resources, even my blog posts!

Back when we lived away from my mom, I had a very special friend who was the "grandma" I needed to make it through.  She provided many meals for us, and she would come over once a week to let me get out of the house and do something for me (and I am so thankful for her)!

Maybe God is calling you to provide the support someone else needs to make it through!

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