When someone you know is suffering from Postnatal Depression it is vital they get support from their partner, family and friends.
• Many people do not know about postnatal depression and what are its symptoms. Some women may not realise they are suffering from postnatal depression as they may just think there are other reasons (lack of sleep, hormones, change of routine, etc) why she is feeling this way and it will pass once she gets used to how things are. Denial is very common but unfortunately is a huge blocker to seeking help and recovering from this illness.
• Society puts a lot of pressure on women to be the perfect mother and this is a completely unrealistic situation. The responsibility and challenges of being a parent are very often not talked about and unfortunately there is a still a stigma surrounding mental health illnesses like postnatal depression. Women can feel very alone and a failure if they feel they are not coping like other women seem to be and may be afraid or embarrassed to say they are struggling. Depression itself can alter a woman’s communication skills, thinking & decision making process. It can be hard for them to verbalise how they are feeling and women may be afraid of people’s reactions if they say how they are feeling. Some women will be afraid their baby will be taken away if they admit they are not well and are not coping.
• Learn as much as you can about postnatal depression so that you can identify the impact of this illness to her emotions, decisions, behaviour and physical health.
• It’s critical that women suffering from postnatal depression feel that you understand that she is suffering from an illness and that she is not a bad mother or is a failure. Normalise the situation as much as possible by talking about postnatal depression and how common an illness it is.
• Being supportive and letting her talk about how she is feeling is very important. Knowing she can talk to you about her feelings without being judged or criticized will help her feel much better and may encourage her to seek help. Just listen to her. Encourage her to show her emotions and not bottle them up but avoid telling her how she should feel. Be patient with her, she is not herself or thinking clearly. Be positive and tell her all the good things she is doing.
• Encourage her to seek help and give her options of who to talk to so that she knows she is not alone and there is help for her and she has an illness that once she gets treatment is recoverable from.
• Talk to your GP, health care nurse andor Nurture about your concerns, treatment options, advice for you, etc especially if mum is refusing to get help or refuses to acknowledge there is a problem and you know she is not coping. If you feel there is a danger to mum or her children you need to seek help immediately.
• Insist that she rest as much as possible, and volunteer to watch the baby while she naps. Ensure she is eating a healthy diet, offer to cook some meals for her. Above all, let her know you are there for her no matter what.
• Taking care of the baby so the mother can sleep, take a shower or eat a good meal can make the world of difference. Offer to feed the baby for her or if she is breastfeeding have her nurse the baby and then you can take them for a walk or go on a short outing. A benefit especially for dads is that most babies love to be out and about and will enjoy this special time with you.
• If she’s overwhelmed with visitors, kindly explain to them that she needs a lot of rest. Look after with whatever household duties usually fall to her (or get someone to help her) and for dads do what you can to stay on top of yours. Worrying about the house’s cleanliness or laundry upkeep will do her no good whatsoever. If trusted and loved relatives or friends offer to sit with the baby for a few hours, or to help with the house, talk to mum and agree to take them up on it. New mums might not want to be away from their baby so she can just get some sleep in the bedroom or have a relaxing bath while the baby is being cared for in another part of the house.
• Most women feel depressed about the way they look after childbirth. After changing so greatly to accommodate a baby’s development, a woman’s body takes months to regain any semblance of normalcy. Be patient with her feelings about it. Tell her what an amazing thing she’s accomplished. Any compliments that acknowledge her unique beauty are sure to be greatly appreciated!
• Becoming a father is a giant step in your life. You need support too so open up to a friend about how it feels to be a Dad especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is not uncommon for men to suffer from depression too when their partner suffers from it. Get healthily, get exercise and do things you enjoy as well. Taking care of yourself will help you take care of your new family. Nurture is here to support partners too so contact us if you need help or just need someone to talk to.
• Mum needs to hear how much you love her and how great you think she is and right now it’s more important for her health and well-being than ever. With all that she’s struggling with physically and emotionally, time may pass before she’s ready for sex (even if she’s had an OK after her checkup). That doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you or need you — she just needs a little time and patience and understanding on your part. Loss of libido is a very common side effect of depression and has nothing to do with her partner and how she feels about them.
If you know or suspect someone you love is experiencing postnatal depression and may need some help, please click here to see how to contact us for immediate and confidential help.