Ways to Support Someone Suffering From… | Center for Growth Therapy

Ways to Support Someone Suffering From Postpartum Depression

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

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Ways to Support Someone Suffering from Postpartum Depression the most important concept that fathers need to understand is that the diagnosis Postpartum Depression is a real syndrome. Postpartum depression typically happens for one of several reasons. First, after the birth of a child, hormone levels in women radically change. Due to the fact that hormones play a role in women’s moods and feelings, women after childbirth are at risk for severe mood changes. Second, incubating and birthing a child puts the female body under tremendous stress. Physically healing from such a process requires an enormous amount of energy, never mind emotional strength. Lastly, from a socially-culturally perspective, new mom’s have just experienced a major life change. They are mom’s, and now for at least the next eighteen years will have someone depending upon them for their survival. This is particularly true in the early years. A supportive, understanding partner is a critical aid in her recovery process. Specific things you can do are the following:

* Validate her feelings: Acknowledge that postpartum depression is a real syndrome. Give her permission to feel the way that she does. Do extra chores around the house: By assuming an increased portion of the household chores, like cooking, washing clothes, vacuuming, making meals, in essence her household responsibilities will be reduced.
* Protect her nap time: Many people will be calling with good wishes or dropping by to greet the baby. Most people want to acknowledge the birth, congratulate mom on her hard work and meet the new member of your family. Mom may have a hard time saying no. Your job is to set boundaries around the times that people call and visit so that she can focus on feeding the baby and sleep when she/he does.
* Care for her the way she is caring for the baby: Give her a massage, get her bath ready, bring her breakfast in bed. Tell her she is wonderful and that you are proud of the way she is caring for your baby. Do not judge her. Simply listen: Do not argue with her when she tells you what she is experiencing. Simply ask questions to try to understand her perspective better. Do not judge her feelings. It is normal to experience a whole range of emotions. Acknowledging the problem is a key step in recovery. Ignoring the problem typically only makes the problem worse.
* Attend all the doctor’s appointments with her: By attending the appointments with her, you are demonstrating the degree to which you take her experiences seriously and willingness to be a part of the solution. Postpartum Depression is scary. “Normal” “well-adjusted women” who do not associate themselves with being depressed are suddenly in a position of not feeling good.
* Encourage her to focus on “getting by” as opposed to being the “perfect mother.” Aiming for perfection causes burn-out. Help her think in terms of “the long haul.” Motherhood, as is fatherhood, is a 24/7 job that lasts for years and years.
* Take some time to care for yourself: Unless you maintain your own health, you will be in no position to help the new mother. If the mother is unable, or unwilling to care for the baby or suicidal seek immediate help.

Common Mistakes that Fathers and Friends of Mothers Suffering from Postpartum Depression make:

* Ignoring depression, or trying to talk her out of it.
* Getting mad at her.
* Comparing her to other mothers.
* Emotionally distancing yourself from the situation.
* Hiding your feelings.
* Focusing on the infant, as opposed to focusing your energy on the new mother so that she can focus her attention on her new baby.

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