How To Help a Friend With Postpartum Depression
25 September 2023
The postpartum period generally comes with a lot of emotional upheaval. During this time, some mothers may experience a condition that causes them to feel negative emotions more severely.
This is known as postpartum depression (PPD), a condition that impacts around 1 in 7 women in the United States. It can be difficult to know how to help a friend with postpartum depression, especially if you don’t know what you’re dealing with.
Let’s take a closer look at what it is and how you can provide support.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder and a type of depression that occurs after having a baby. Around 15% of people experience the severe lows that accompany the condition, despite being excited about having a child.
While it is typically only considered in relation to the birthing parent, postpartum depression can also impact surrogates and adoptive parents.
It is associated with the physical, hormonal, emotional, financial, social, and overall lifestyle changes that occur after a baby is born.
The first step to supporting a friend through postpartum depression is to know how the condition may manifest.
Some symptoms of postpartum include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Frequent crying
- Seeming disconnection or disinterest in the child
- Social withdrawal
- Appetite changes
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Excessive sleepiness or insomnia
The symptoms of postpartum depression may be mild or severe. It can appear within a week of delivery or during the first year after childbirth.
If you have a friend who seems excessively irritable or tired, is crying a lot, or doesn’t seem enthusiastic about interacting with the child or their loved ones, they may be experiencing postpartum depression.
How To Help a Friend With Postpartum Depression
A major aspect of postpartum depression involves complicated feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, confusion, and more. Often, postpartum depression is met with judgment, making these feelings worse as the parent feels like they aren’t good enough or that they should be able to simply “snap out of it.” Emotional support is, therefore, extremely important to help new parents feel less isolated.
Here’s how to help a friend with postpartum depression:
Give Them a Safe Space To Talk
Let your friend know that their feelings are valid and that they can talk to you without fear of judgment. If they open up to you and express themselves, recognize that it may be difficult for them to do so and be supportive. Avoid disputing their feelings since it can make them feel invalidated.
You may want to be encouraging and say things like “That’s not true, you’re a great mom!” when your friend says that they are struggling. A better approach would be to acknowledge that it is indeed challenging. Let your friend know that you are proud of how well they are coping with the situation.
A simple, “I’m sure it’s difficult, but you make it look like a breeze and that is amazing!” can go a long way. There’s a subtle yet impactful difference between the two statements. Ultimately, the goal is to assure your friend and let them know that you have their back without disregarding how they may feel about the situation.
Check On Your Friend
When it comes to a newborn, people often shower the baby with attention while the parents are often ignored and left in the background.
When you go visit your friend, don’t make it all about the baby. Check up on them to see how they are coping with the changes. Ask questions to gauge how things are going so you can understand how you can offer a helping hand.
It’s also good to let your friend know that you noticed how they are feeling and that you care about their well-being. Reaching out in this way is always productive when someone is coping with any type of depression.
You can also pay them a visit bearing their favorite foods. Maintaining a social life with a newborn can be difficult and they will definitely appreciate the company.
Provide Practical Assistance
Practical help eases the burden of postpartum depression. Something as simple as ensuring that your friend is continuing essential prenatal care routines can help them realize that you care about them.
Other simple and practical ways you can help include:
- Bring over a few homecooked, easy-to-reheat meals so your friend can take a break from cooking.
- Volunteer to babysit, overnight if possible, so the new parents can get some rest and take some time off for self-care.
- Attend doctor or pediatrician appointments so your friend can get some social interaction while crossing off the task from their to-do list.
- Take over a few household tasks when you visit, such as doing a quick load of laundry, to reduce the work your friend has to do.
- Pick up groceries for your friend when you are out shopping for yourself.
The idea is to reduce the load your friend has to bear by offering practical support in addition to having a shoulder to cry on.
This might also include encouraging your friend to seek professional help from a therapist who is experienced in offering mental health support for postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can be a debilitating condition that can severely impact a parent’s quality of life. While we covered some basic tips that can help, remember that each person is unique. It all comes down to paying attention and offering support according to the unique needs of your friend.
By providing emotional and practical support regularly and consistently, you can help your friend survive and eventually recover from postpartum depression.