Giving birth is a great feeling, one of the greatest joys a mother can experience. Bringing a child into the world and seeing them, holding them for the first time, the feeling is beyond words. New mothers are often overwhelmed with feelings of joy, awe, and bliss. However, due to the stagy hormonal change in such a short period, a mother can also experience crying bouts and sad feelings. This is commonly referred to as the ‘baby blues’ and should phase out in a couple of weeks or so. However, for some mothers, it does go further than the usual baby blues. The feelings of depression and loneliness become more dominant and last for a long time. The condition is called postpartum depression (PPD). In this article, we will focus on the symptoms of PPD, and what you can do to help a lady in such a situation.
PPD occurs in around one in seven new mothers. Here are some of the symptoms that could indicate postpartum depression in new mothers.
- Feelings of withdrawal and distance from family and friends
- Feeling depressed for most of the day, which may carry for weeks on end
- Feeling tired all the time
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Heightened disinterest in activities (including sex)
- Getting irritated and irked easily
- Racing thoughts, worrying feelings, panic attacks and anxiety
The symptoms may occur within the first few weeks of childbirth, but in some cases, can manifest months after childbirth.
While there are specialists and therapists who will help women overcome PPD, there is still a lot that can be done by people in these women’s lives. Here are a few techniques that husbands (and the general support system) can do to help with recovery.
Acknowledge her feelings
As aforementioned, one of the signs is anxiety and worrying thoughts. These thoughts will be self-demeaning and she may question her ability to mother the newborn and have other self-incriminating thoughts and feelings that will focus on her inefficiencies and shortcomings. These feelings may not be true, but to her, the feelings are as real as the light of day. At this time, she doesn’t need somebody to argue with her, she needs someone to acknowledge the feelings are real for her.
For instance, when she questions her ability to be a mother, instead of telling her “but no, you’re a great mother, you and everyone else knows that.” and fall into an argument, approach the situation from an angle such as “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way, it must hurt a lot.” The latter will acknowledge that she’s actually in pain and not in some make-believe universe of her own. Acknowledging her feelings will also help her feel safe and supported.
She has just given birth, she’s added weight and she might be feeling like an unloved object. She doesn’t need all the extra house responsibilities falling back to her. While we might be lucky as relatives get to come and assist with chores, you shouldn’t shy away from making her favourite meal every now and then. This will also help her see people still do care for her. Everyone wants to feel loved. The extra time will also help her work towards recovering.
It’s also important to let her get enough sleep. She has spent the whole day working – either in an office or as a mother. She needs the energy to recuperate and reenergize. This might not be the time to point out the dirty laundry in the house (which you can get a laundry lady for).
Get involved in her life
There are points that she will feel like she is all alone. She may be in a room full of relatives but still feel lonely. She will not recognize it’s all in her head, thus, you can’t use logic to make her feel better. You need to show her you’re still very much in the core of her life.
Look for connection points, something she loves doing, and do it with her. Make sacrifices to spend time with her and to engage her. However, she still needs some personal space, so don’t be all up in her personal space. You will need to find the balance.
You should also involve yourself with the baby. Get a good baby carrier, and strap the baby around you. This will help you bond with the child, give the mother time to herself and show your involvement and commitment.
Postpartum depression is a serious condition and should be treated as such. It is important to recognize the symptoms early on and to get the child’s mother to see a therapist and get professional help. That doubled with the support of her family and friends should help her recover faster and enjoy the full benefits of being a mother.
Want to know more about postpartum depression? Read Health and Parenting: Things You Should Know About Postpartum Depression.