My lovely friend since high school has recently given birth to a gorgeous baby boy, but she keeps telling me that she doesn't feel at all happy - quite the opposite. She doesn't know if she will be able to cope with life and says motherhood is not at all what she expected from it. She often rings me up crying. These are definitely signs of postpartum depression, am I right?
Now, my question is, what can I do to support her and make her see that she might need some serious help with this? Because as far as I know you can't just snap out of postpartum depression.
Hoping for some replies quickly,
That's a pretty tough question you're asking, actually. The treatment for postpartum depression is no secret - you're talking about a combination of talk therapy and antidepressants in most cases. Social support can also really, really help, but on the other hand, many depressed people really aren't that receptive if you ask whether you can do anything to help them. If your friend is open, then great. You can provide logistical help like cooking meals or taking the baby for a while, and also take her to appointments as well as continue to be a listening ear. If your friend is not receptive, though, once you suggest treatment, that is a really really hard thing that I don't really know what to say about. After all, you can't have your friend committed. Does she have a partner, do you talk to her partner?
I would caution you against making armchair diagnoses. Women can experience new motherhood as hard, because it IS hard, without having postpartum depression. The best thing you can do is to keep on talking to your friend, and to ask her if she actually has postpartum depression signs like suicidal thoughts, a lack of appetite, a loss of interest in doing anything she enjoyed before, those kinds of things.
When I first had a baby, I must have called my own mom crying 1000 different times. She fell off the bed once, I was convinced I had murdered her. She had a skin rash, I thought she had meningitis. She didn't poo for two days, I thought there was something wrong. She couldn't sleep, I thought I was incompetent. I could go on, and on, and on. Crying and being overwhelmed isn't necessarily postpartum depression. People are social creatures and I know just having a shoulder to cry on and reassure me always made me feel better right after those calls. Just don't jump to conclusions.
I can absolutely see why you are concerned for your friend and her baby right now. Having said that, I also agree with the previous poster to some extent. Perhaps the best thing you can do for your friend is to ask her whether she thinks she could have postpartum depression point blank. She's obviously looking for help from you if she rings you up with thoughts like those, and my guess is that she's also already looked for answers online, because that's just what people do in this day and age. Your friend will give you valuable information when she answers the question. Maybe she does have PPD and could benefit from your push in the back to see a doctor. Or perhaps she's really saying she'd love for you to come clean her house and cook her something nice. :)
When I had postpartum depression, I didn't appreciate much of anything at all, but in hindsight, I'm so grateful for my friends and relatives who:
- Brought me meals
- Came to clean my house
- Encouraged me to come out for walks or just grocery shopping sans baby
- Kept me in touch with the real world by talking about things they were experiencing in their own lives
My husband never gave me grief for not doing anything all day, and I wasn't. I just slept and watched TV shows and wasn't connecting with my baby. He was very gentle about suggesting I need to chat with my doctor and never added to my already existing feelings of inadequacy in the way he talked to me about it.
I think any new mom appreciates those things, postpartum depression or not! I know I did! I don't have any personal experience with postpartum depression so I'm not sure, but all new mothers love to feel pampered and taken care of so that is something friends can safely do without the mother with possible postpartum depression feeling like she's being told she isn't right in the head, you know? I keep thinking about this question: how do you tell someone you think has postpartum depression that you think they have it without making them feel insulted? Do they know that they are depressed?
Do people with depression know they are depressed? I can't speak to postpartum depression, but I have been depressed and OF COURSE I knew I was depressed! Life was a giant black cloud, or a blur.
Nothing was fun. I could not concentrate on anything, and felt totally incompetent. I knew there were things I ought to be doing, but I couldn't get up and actually do them. I felt nobody cared about me. I felt nothing was ever going to get better. I felt physically ill all the time. Headaches, muscles aches, a cloudy like feeling in my head like I was super fatigued all the time. That is what depression feels like. Of course people who are depressed know something is wrong.
What should and can you do if you suspect that someone you care about has postpartum depression, because you have spotted some of the signs of postpartum depression?
I'd make the following suggestions:
- Help them out, practically, with daily things. It's not a big deal to you, but it could mean a lot to them.
- Ask them if they have postpartum depression. They either already know they have it, or it will get them thinking.
- Tell them you're not judging because there's nothing to judge. At least one in 10 new mothers get postpartum depression. It's not their fault.
- Finding treatment can be overwhelming. If your loved one indicates they appreciate it, send them links, research resources for them nearby.