Whether you are having your first child or your third, taking care of a new baby can be hard. You’re probably feeling sleep deprived, your house probably feels like a mess, and you’d probably love nothing more than a day (or week) of complete relaxation. If you’ve just had a new baby, you’re probably also experiencing a wide range of emotions caused by changes in your hormones. This combination of emotions and everything else you’re juggling can be a recipe for excessive stress, fatigue, and even postpartum depression. In fact, according to a new study, as many as 1 in 7 women may develop postpartum depression in the first year of their child’s life.
Before deciding to have children, many women do research on the not-so-appealing side effects of pregnancy, like morning sickness, aches, pains, and nausea, so they know what to expect and prepare for. However, what people don’t commonly prepare for is postpartum depression. Because we don’t openly and commonly discuss the mental health struggles of new moms, it can cause them to feel isolated and broken if they develop the baby blues or postpartum depression.
Luckily, there are some telltale signs of the condition that you, your family, and partner, can be on the lookout for. Understanding them can help you or your loved one get the help you need when you need it.
What Is Postpartum Depression? How Do I Know If I Have it?
When new moms give birth, their bodies are consumed with so many different emotions, caused by an influx of hormones. A lot of new moms experience “baby blues” which consist of mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and insomnia. These emotions are typically brought on within 2 days of the baby being born and can last up to two weeks. When the baby blues last longer and have more severe side effects, that’s when postpartum depression might be at play. This mental health disorder isn’t you or your loved one’s fault. It’s simply a risk factor of giving birth. In some cases, signs and symptoms can occur during pregnancy and last up to a year after giving birth.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
- Excessive crying
- Mood swings
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Fatigue, low energy
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Loss of interest in activities that once brought you joy
- Irritability and anger
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, or shame
- Anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Feeling like you’re not a good mother
- Thoughts of death or suicide
The reason your sister developed postpartum depression and the reason you (or your wife) didn’t doesn’t matter, and vice versa. It’s often hard to determine a single cause of this mental health condition. However, there are some physical and emotional concerns that could play a role. For example, after giving birth there is a significant drop in hormones. This drop can leave you feeling tired, sluggish, and depressed. Additionally, you are probably overwhelmed, extremely tired, and having a hard time handling smaller issues.
There are also several risk factors that could contribute to the development of postpartum depression. Some examples include:
- Trouble breastfeeding
- Problems with your significant other
- Financial issues
- A weak support system,
- A history of postpartum depression
- High stress
- Your baby has health problems or special needs
- You had twins or triplets
- You gave your baby up for adoption
The most important thing in these situations is to seek out a trust support system whether it’s your partner, family members, friends, co-workers, or a therapist.
How Can You Help Someone Who Might Have Postpartum Depression?
When new babies are brought into the world, it can be exciting for everyone in the mom’s life. Friends and family members are often very excited to meet the little one. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it can cause the struggles of the mother to be overlooked. There are some things that you can do to help out the mom in your life, whether you suspect she might have postpartum depression or not. A little extra help can even help pull her out of the mental rut without even knowing she was in it.
1. Spend Quality Time with Her
It’s likely that the new mom is home alone while her partner returns to work. This can leave her feeling extremely isolated on top of the stress she is already enduring. One way to help out is by offering to come over and visit, on her terms, to spend a little quality time together. Ask her about her day, talk about what’s going on, and most importantly, don’t treat her any differently than you would before.
2. Ask Her Specific Questions
Instead of saying, “Let me know if I can help with anything,” try asking her, “Do you want me to do a load of laundry for you while you rest?” She might not want you to feel like you have to help her out so she wouldn’t take you up on your offer. However, by asking her a more specific question, she will be more comfortable saying yes. Plus, it takes the pressure off of her to decide what to ask you to do. Here are some other ways you can ask to be of assistance:
- What would you like for lunch/dinner today? I’ll cook.
- Do you want me to take your pet out for afternoon walks while you rest?
- I’m going to help take care of your dishes. Is that alright with you?
- Let me change your sheets for you while you nurse. That way you’ll have a fresh bed for this evening.
- What are some items you need from the grocery store? I can make a list and pick them up for you on my way over.
3. Spend Time with Her Other Children
If the new mom in your life has older children, offer to spend quality time with them. Taking them out of the house, even for an hour, gives the momma some time to relax with the new baby. You can take the other kids to a park, out to paint pottery, to see a movie, visit the store for a new (preferably quiet) toy, or even play together in their room at home.
4. Offer to Stay with the Baby so Mom Can Have Some Alone Time
Send her a text, give her a call, or tell her the next time you visit that anytime she needs some time to pamper herself, you can watch the baby. For new dads, this can give you the quiet time with your little one you’ve been looking forward to all day. During this time, new moms can shower or take a bath, get a good nap in, or even head out to get their nails done. Whatever self-care Mom needs, you’re helping her out tremendously by taking care of her little one in the meantime.
5. Validate What She’s Doing Well
Nothing can be more isolating than feeling like what you’re doing is failing or going unnoticed. Maybe Mom is balancing cooking meals for her family, watching the baby, cleaning, and taking care of herself all at the same time. Acknowledge when she’s doing something great and offer words of encouragement. Try: “The baby looks like their growing so quickly! You must be feeding them well.” “I know how hard it can be to juggle everything in life when you’re exhausted. I can’t believe how well you’re handling all of this.” “You look amazing! Did you go get your hair done?” “You’re keeping up with your household chores better than I am, and I don’t even have a new baby!”
How to Combat Postpartum Depression If You’re Struggling Yourself
- Get exercise when you can. Your doctor will let you know how much physical activity is best for you, so just be cautious when being active. Start with walks around your neighborhood or local park.
- Eat healthy and often enough to fuel you throughout the day.
- Take some alone time and ask for help when you need it.
- Schedule time to hang out with friends or family to prevent feelings of isolation.
- Nap and rest when you can.
While the above tips can help you manage your difficult feelings, postpartum depression often requires professional treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, please consider talking to a counselor. They have the experience, background, and knowledge to help you cope with, manage, and overcome your postpartum depression.