Giving birth to a child is one of the happiest occasions in life, but many new moms find that life after childbirth includes some unexpected struggles. Postpartum depression is a serious illness, and it can be very trying for the moms who experience it, as well as for their family and loved ones.
We've already defined postpartum depression, including its causes, symptoms, and risk factors. Being able to answer the question "what is postpartum depression?" is a great first step, but if you're a husband, partner, friend, or family member to someone experiencing the condition, what can you do on a practical level to help your loved one get through this tough time?
While treatment and therapy are imperative to your loved one's recovery, offering your support and understanding at home is just as important. Studies have shown that sufferers of postpartum depression who have supportive partners experience a decrease in negative mental health symptoms.
What Kind of Support Can I Give?
Just being there and listening with an open mind can do wonders for your loved one's mood. Here are a few basic ways you can give your loved one the best support possible:
- Be prepared. Learn as much as you can about postpartum depression, and know what to expect for symptoms. If your friends and family members ask, "What is postpartum depression?" you'll be able to explain the condition and suggest ways they can make your loved one's life easier.
- Be aware. Pay attention to your loved one's moods. Your partner may shift quickly from irrational anger and sadness to feelings of guilt and incompetence. Be accepting and understanding -- when you're suffering from postpartum depression, the stress can make it easy to say things you don't really mean.
- Be open. It can be dangerous if your loved one feels like they can't share their feelings with you. Encourage open, judgment-free dialogue. When arguments inevitably arise, soothe the conflict by letting her know you're listening and willing to work it out.
- Be helpful. Assure your loved one that you know postpartum depression isn't her fault. Help with housework and the baby, encourage her when she needs to take time for herself, and help her reach out for support. Being there is important, but being actively helpful is even better.
- Be patient. Sometimes, your loved one's treatments can take a while to work, and they may have to be changed for new ones. Unfortunately, there's no miracle cure, and recovery can be slow. Stay confident that your loved one will get better, regardless of how long it takes.
Keep Your Own Mental Health in Mind
Taking care of a sick loved one is no easy task, and it's important to keep your own mental health in mind. Make sure you have a support network of your own, and take some time for yourself when you can. Don't be afraid to accept help, and reach out if you're in need.
Talk to your loved one's mental health professional about her symptoms, and see if they have an action plan that can help her stay on track. Above all, don't lose hope. It's going to be an uphill battle, but the future is well worth the struggle.