How to Support a Friend Dealing with Postpartum Depression
It’s not a secret that life completely changes the moment you become a parent. Your world becomes entirely different and this tiny person becomes the star of the show. This new situation can result in a variety of complex emotions. When you have postpartum depression (PPD), these new feelings can make life seem unbearable. Watching your friend endure this type of disorder is difficult, but you may be able to give her support by offering your time, listening and talking to her, and doing what you can to help her get better.
Offering Your Time
Ask her what you can do.Don’t assume what you can do for your friend. Instead, just ask her. The thing that may help her the most could be something you never thought of.
- You could say, “I would love to help you right now, but I’m not sure what I can do. Please just tell me what you need and I’d be happy to do it.” You may be the first person to offer your help since she’s had the baby, and your help could be a relief for her.
- If your friend resists your help, then try saying something like, "I insist on doing something for you, so it might as well be something you need!" Keep in mind that your friend may need some time to become comfortable with the idea of accepting help, and she may never ask for help at all.
Do chores.Having a new baby is demanding enough on your time. Experiencing postpartum depression at the same time can make it impossible. A mother who is thinking about everything she has on her plate in addition to taking care of the baby can make her feel overwhelmed and like she is drowning.
- Help her out by cleaning her house and running errands for her. Do her laundry and fold her clothes a few days a week. These small gestures will make a huge difference in her life and give her a moment to breathe.
- If you cannot offer physical help to your friend, then you might suggest pooling your resources in different ways, such as by sharing the cost of housekeeping services, childcare, or meal-drop offs.
Help with the baby.New moms don’t even have time to take a shower most days. Offer a few hours of your time each week so that she can get a break. Having someone to come over and simply hold the baby for them can provide a break they greatly need.
- Tell your friend you will come over at a certain time so that they can do whatever they want. Even if they simply want to read a book, take a nap, have a bubble bath, or veg out in front of the television. Let her know that she can have a few hours to herself, even if she doesn’t even leave the home.
- Keep in mind that she may not feel comfortable leaving her baby in your care right away. It might take a few visits before she feels confident in your ability care for her baby on your own.
Get her out of the house.Women with new babies can feel like prisoners in their own homes. Women with PPD may feel trapped in their homes and are desperate to find a way out. You can give her this opportunity for a break. Find a sitter for the baby and invite her to spend some time with you, away from the home and children.
- She may not be able to spend much time away from the baby, particularly if she is nursing. Find an activity that doesn’t take very long, like getting manicures and pedicures, going to a movie, or simply taking a walk. Accompany her on longer trips if she can. Spending the day at the spa or taking a day trip somewhere may help her to feel like her old self again.
Providing Support and Reassurance
Lend your ears.Women with PPD can feel isolated and all alone. They may spend countless hours with only the baby and not have anyone they can really confide in. Be this sounding board for her. Allow her to tell you what she’s going through by simply listening and being there.
- Try not to interject with any comments or solutions at this moment. Simply listen, look into her eyes, and nod sympathetically. Give her a tissue for her tears, if needed, and hug it out.
- Be aware that your friend may need you at inconvenient times sometimes. It is important for you to be there for her because rejecting her at a time when she really needs someone may send her into a tailspin. Try telling your husband and/or boss about the situation so they will know that you need to take the call if your friend calls.
Remind her that she will be OK.Although it can seem like it lasts a lifetime, PPD is usually temporary. She likely feels like she is drowning and has no chance of escaping these feelings. Remind her that she will get through this and you will be there every step of the way.
- Also, remind her that she is not her feelings or symptoms. She is a wonderful person who is simply going through a rough time because of her baby. She is enduring a difficult, yet common, disorder and with help, she will overcome it.
- Do some research on post-partum depression to help you provide her with specific information on the condition.
Be reassuring.Tell her she can handle this. Having a new baby is stressful for a number of reasons. PPD can make it even worse. She may doubt her skills as a mother, partner, and even a person. Your reassurance can help her feel better about herself.
Encourage her to seek professional help.She may not be aware of how severe her PPD is. She may also feel guilty or embarrassed about getting help. Your encouragement may give her the push she needs to get better.
- You could say, “"I think it's time you talked to a professional about this. Many mothers go through this and their doctors have helped them immensely. Get help with medication instead of trying to fight this on your own.”Remind her that this is a chemical issue and it is no fault of her own.
Assisting With Recovery
Talk to her partner.If your friend has a partner, work together to come up with a plan. Her partner probably spends more time around her than anyone. They may know what to do better than you in order to help your friend. Stay in contact with each other and give updates on how she’s doing. Together, you may be able to get her through this.
- Ask your friend is it OK to discuss her condition with her partner first. Make sure she understands that you two are working together to help her get better. If she doesn't like the idea, back off and help in some other way.
Provide space if she needs it.People deal with postpartum depression in different ways. Some people want to be surrounded by others while some may want to be left alone. Ask her what she needs the most and try your best to respect her wishes.
- If your friend asks you for space, respect her decision. But let her know that you are always a phone call away if she were to need you.
- Make sure to keep calling her now and then as well. She may be asking for space as a way to push you away, but she will be grateful that you are sticking around.
Accompany her to the doctor.She may feel anxious to talk to a stranger about what she’s going through. You being there with her may give her the support she needs to feel comfortable enough to really talk about what she’s experiencing and hopefully get better.
- Encourage your friend to also go to a support group for her PPD. Talking with other women who are enduring this depression may help her.
- Ask her what she would prefer for you to do during the appointment. She may want you to describe some of the things you have noticed, or she may just want you to be there as a comforting presence.
Acknowledge her progress.If you see improvements in your friend’s condition, however small, make sure to point them out to her. For example, if you notice that she is getting out of the house more often, making time for her personal grooming, or even just smiling more, then these are signs of progress.
- Try saying something like, “I am so glad to hear that you went to yoga class yesterday! That is a great sign of progress and a very nice thing to do for yourself.”
Recognize and get help for severe postpartum symptoms.While many mothers who suffer from postpartum depression quickly recover, some experience severe symptoms that can have serious consequences. If you suspect your friend has severe postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, you should get her to an experienced mental health provider immediately.
- Severe postpartum depression, including postpartum psychosis, involves more extreme symptoms. Mothers may have thoughts of harming their babies, become violent, or have hallucinations or delusions.
- If your friend makes a comment about harming her baby, seems confused, experiences blackouts, or claims to see or hear things that no one else does, get her to a doctor right away.You may need to call an ambulance or enlist the help of other people to help your friend. Remember that her safety and her baby’s safety come first and any anger she feels towards you for calling for help or telling other people what is going on is something you can work out later.
Video: How to Help a Friend Feeling Suicidal
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