Postpartum depression is a common, yet tremendously painful burden for many new moms. It's reported that as many as 20 percent of women experience some form of the condition after giving birth, but many never seek help or even talk about their struggle. While celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Adele have opened up about their own battles with postpartum depression, many women still feel shame about feeling so sad and helpless during what they assumed would be a time full of happiness and joy. Not only does postpartum depression affect the women struggling with it but it can also be difficult for their friends and family, who want to help but don't know where to start.
Keep reading for tips on how to support your friend or loved one suffering from postpartum depression.
- Listen with acceptance. If your loved ones opens up to you about how they're feeling, don't shoot down the conversation with a dismissive comment like "I'm sure it's just hormones" or "how can you be sad when you have such a perfect baby?" Your friend is asking for help, and it's your job to validate her feelings and tell her that you're there to support her while she's dealing with them.
- Encourage her to seek help. Postpartum depression is a real medical condition, not something that she can just shake off. Because you can't really know how much she's sharing with or shielding from you, encourage her to reach out to a professional who will be better equipped to make an accurate diagnosis and provide medical help.
- Don't judge or downplay her feelings. Even if the few days after you had your own child were the best of your life, that doesn't mean you are equipped to help her have the same experience. Telling her that she just needs to "change her perspective" or "focus on her blessings" isn't helpful. Don't give her an armchair diagnosis or insist that essential oils, religion, or a decent nap will cure her.
- Validate her efforts. Depression can strip away self-esteem and worth, so remind her that she is a great mom, despite her struggles. Tell her how strong you think she is and how brave for her openness and honesty. Also remind her that the best care she can give her baby is caring for herself.
- Help her to make time for herself. Offer to drop off groceries or dinner one night for her family, to babysit while she gets her hair or nails done, or to take her other children while she takes the baby to a doctor's appointment. Moms know how hard the daily struggle of caring for a baby (and in some cases, older children as well) can be, so offer up the things that you know would have helped you. She needs them even more.
- Plan an afternoon or night out together. Self-isolation can be a common side effect of postpartum depression, so try to get your friend out of the house for a coffee, glass of wine, dinner out, or even a walk around the neighborhood — without her baby.
- Connect her with another woman who's been through it. If you yourself have experienced postpartum depression, by all means, share your experiences with your friend. It will undoubtedly make her feel less alone. If you know of other women in your social circle who have battled depression, connecting the two by email or text message is a great way to help your friend find a solid support system. As this brave mom said, moms should "join forces with other mommas and work together to find that peace with ourselves . . . PPD or not."
- Stick with her. Recovering from postpartum depression is a different journey for every woman, but it's not usually a quick fix. Understand that it might take months, even with medication, for your loved one to return to "normal," and stick with her through all the ups and down.