“This (Postpartum depression) is an illness that takes away a woman’s ability to access joy, right at the time she needs it the most.” – Dr. Katherine Wisner
“There was sadness in my very bones. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I cried when the baby cried, I cried when he slept because I knew he would wake up soon. I cried all the time“. were the words of another that underwent postpartum depression. According to the patient herself, after 3 weeks of the birth of her baby, when she discussed her mental condition with her mother she got to hear “Repent right now! How can you be so ungrateful?”. Unfortunately, this is the only way of treating postpartum depression that we know of.
Little did the presumably old lady know that this is not ungratefulness. This is a scientifically proven medical condition called postpartum depression (PPD) which requires medical attention, not a lecture on being grateful. If you have ever been a victim of such remarks or have been at the giving end, it shouldn’t have been that way.
Surprisingly, in a country where little attention is given to mental health, that too of a woman, the postpartum rates in Pakistan range from 28% to 63%. This places Pakistan as the country with the highest rates of postpartum depression in Asia.
It is important to learn about all the terms that may define one’s disturbed condition after giving birth, such as postpartum blues, postpartum mood disorder, postpartum psychosis, and postpartum OCD. PPD is marked by mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.
So, if you are ever guilty of supposedly hating your child within a short time after his/her birth you are not alone and you are not an outcast. It is quite normal, but what’s not normal is not seeking help. Also, depression and other mental conditions require effort from people surrounding the affected, So if you suspect that somebody around you is a victim of postpartum depression, here is how you can help them.
1. Tell The Mother, She’s Not Alone
1 in 5 women will probably experience postpartum depression after childbirth. It’s completely normal, and no, a PPD patient isn’t alone in her experience. It is high time that we educate ourselves as individuals and as a community. This will help us better cater to mental health issues, of our own or of someone we care for.
If you are a mother, tell your daughter or daughter-in-law how some trials in your own motherhood worked out for the best. The suffering mother needs an example of how she’s like everyone else, and that she too will see a happier, and joyful side of being a mother.
2. Tell Her, She Is A Good Mother
Tell the woman struggling with PPD, that she’s a good mother. It would be really hard for her to believe. She’s in a void where she feels disconnected from her emotions, body, her life, her loved ones, and most painfully, her baby. This can cause a lot of guilt. Show her that even though she’s struggling, she’s a good mother. Her baby is healthy, smiling, beautiful, and safe, no matter what the situation is.
Let her know she doesn’t need to feel guilty for being with a baby all the time, and that she’s doing a good job as a mother. She’s doing what’s best and healthiest for both herself and her baby despite so much pain, and that takes a lot of courage and strength on her part.
3. Encourage Her To Take Meds
If the mother has to take medication to deal with depression, don’t associate any weakness or shame with it. Many partners get surprised if their partner takes medication especially if they have been healthy in general and anti-medication, especially regarding depression.
In some cases of postpartum depression, medication might not be necessary but it can be essential in severe cases. If your partner or loved one has to take medication to deal with depression, help them feel comfortable and overcome any feeling of shame that might come with taking medication.
4. Offer Specific Help
It might feel good to ask a depressed mother whether she needs something. Telling her that you are there might also look good, but this might not be the best strategy. Mothers struggle with feeling guilty about getting help from other people and being overly dependent.
It’s better to offer specific help – you might offer to cook a meal for a certain time, wash laundry, or sit with the baby for an hour in the evening. This doesn’t mean, offering general help is bad, it’s just offering specific help is more effective for both the woman struggling with depression as well the person offering help.
5. Don’t Force Her To Be Happy
Suffering mothers would love to be happy, only if they could. Don’t ever tell a depressed mother that she should be happy because she has been blessed with the biggest gift of all. Everybody wants to tell the affected person to be happy at once and get it over with but this is not possible.
For the family, the solution to this is to educate themselves on postpartum depression, in this Internet age everything is just one search away. If you are a family member, educate yourself about what your loved one might be going through, and learn about the illnesses. Have a family meeting, and discuss and inform other members about this illness. This way, everyone can offer better support and empathy.
6. Be There For As Long As It Takes
Don’t rush the process. Mental illnesses are more deeply rooted than they seem to be. Such things take time and such a person needs time to heal. Treatment takes time. It can take from a few weeks to months. Don’t offer your support to a mother for only two or three weeks, let her know you’re there for her as long as it takes.
Also communicate, if it’s your partner, that you’ll be okay listening to her about the hard stuff. It’s our tendency to make the pain go away as soon as possible. Say things like ‘if you want to cry, I can sit with you while you cry without any judgment’.
The sooner the mother gets the help she needs, the sooner she can go back to caring for the one individual who needs her most – her baby. There should be enough support available for women suffering from PPD. The sooner they get back on their feet, the better it will be for both – them and their children.
Now that you are all set to provide the care a depressed mother might need I have another hard to swallow pill for you. Sometimes PPD can get out of your control, this might require medical attention. For that, you should consult a psychologist. Even in milder stages, consulting a psychologist can help prevent the worsening of the situation.
Book an appointment now, to answer all your queries. You can book an appointment with top psychologists in Pakistan through Marham by calling at Marham helpline: 0311-1222398 or by online appointment booking facility through the website or Marham mobile app.
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