What to Do When the Woman You Love Has Postpartum Depression
If your wife or partner has symptoms of postpartum depression, you might feel uncertain about what to do to help. It can be confusing and even frightening to see the mother of your child struggle with such intense, negative emotions when you thought this would be a joyous time.
It’s important to know that what she’s going through isn’t anyone’s fault—not yours, not hers, and not the baby’s. The good news is, you can help her get through it.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, can affect the entire family, says psychiatric PA Regina Gurley, PA-C of UNC Psychiatry at Goldsboro. “Motherhood doesn’t happen in isolation,” she says. “The demands of caring for a new baby are intense, and all mothers need support during this vulnerable time. We are not meant to do this alone. Support from a loving partner or family member is critical. Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression can help you identify if your wife or loved one should seek professional health.”
If you love someone with postpartum depression, here’s what you need to know to help her.
Postpartum Depression is More Than “Baby Blues”
You may have heard of the “baby blues,” when women experience unpleasant emotional changes in the aftermath of delivery. Symptoms can include mood instability, feeling depressed, weepiness, sadness, irritability, anxiety, lack of concentration and feelings of dependency.
These symptoms happen to a lot of new moms—from 50 to 85 percent—but usually subside within a few weeks after delivery.
In contrast, the more severe postpartum depression occurs in about 10 percent of women who have given birth. PPD typically emerges over the first two to three months after childbirth but may occur at any point after delivery. Unlike the “baby blues,” symptoms of PPD last longer, typically for more than two weeks.
What Symptoms of Postpartum Depression Should I Look For in My Partner?
Symptoms of PPD include:
- Feeling sad and depressed or crying a lot
- Intense anxiety, rumination or obsessions
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or incompetence
- Fatigue, irritability or sleep disturbance
- Change in appetite
- Poor concentration
- Feeling inadequate to cope with new infant
- Excessive worry about baby’s health
- Suicidal thoughts
Why is She Experiencing Postpartum Depression?
Are women with postpartum depression made more vulnerable because of their genes?
The Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment, launched a mobile app, PPD ACT, to screen women for postpartum depression through a series of questions.
Some women who take the screening will be asked to give a saliva sample through a kit they’ll receive and return by mail. The team will “scan” the DNA for each woman who submits a sample. If they do this for tens of thousands of women, they can identify if there are any genetic differences in women who experienced postpartum depression.
The idea is that a better understanding of hereditary or environmental causes of PPD will lead to better treatments and less suffering.
What Can I Do to Help Her With Postpartum Depression?
Of course, while scientists are at work trying to understand PPD for the future, families must deal with its very real consequences today. Here are some tips for helping a woman with postpartum depression:
Find support. Start with pactforthecure.com/resources.
Read up. Get educated on PPD.
Work as a team. Understand that postpartum depression is no one’s fault.
Invalidate. Don’t say things like, “You need to get over it.”
Shame or guilt her. Don’t say things like, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself” or “What’s the matter with you?”
Compare. Don’t talk about how well other new moms are doing in comparison to her.
If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, contact 911 for immediate help. You may also contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours a day, to speak with a mental health professional right away.
If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression or other mental illness, please contact East Pointe Mental Health Services at 1.800.913.6109 for help with non-life-threatening crisis situations, services, referrals and scheduling outpatient appointments. For life-threatening emergencies, always call 911.
Postpartum Support International offers a 24/7 Helpline available by calling 1-800-944-4773 or texting 503-894-9453. The PSI HelpLine is a toll-free telephone number anyone can call to get basic information, support, and resources related to Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorders. Messages are returned every day of the week.