“This 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“.
These were the words of the woman who went through postpartum depression.
And when, after 3 weeks of birth of her son, she talked to her mother about it. She got to hear:
With eyes wide, her mother stared at her in shock and disbelief. “Repent at once,” she demanded. “How can you be so ungrateful?”
But this woman wasn’t ungrateful. In her words: “I didn’t feel ungrateful; I felt nothing. No love or emotion. And that was the problem. I had no bond with the baby. He was just another member of the household and nothing more.”
This is how a woman feels struggling with postpartum depression after the birth of her child. There are so many women in our society who suffer in silence and struggle with postpartum depression as described above. But they find it difficult to describe how they feel to their loved ones, or don’t know how to get help.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is common among women in Pakistan, with a prevalence rate ranging from 28 percent to 63 percent, placing it among the highest in Asia. It has devastating effects on mothers, infants and families.
Postpartum Mood Disorder (PPMD) is a broad term encompassing Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, Postpartum Psychosis and Postpartum Blues.
Postpartum Blues is the most common term to describe the onset of this mood disorder after childbirth. A person going through it feels one or more following feelings: estrangement, depression, mood swings, low energy, crying episodes, anxiety and irritability.
If these feelings persist for more than two weeks after childbirth, Postpartum Blues becomes Postpartum Depression. The mother should be given immediate medical attention in such case (Source: Canadian Mental Health Association; Mayo Clinic)
It can happen to any woman.
Ethnicity, maternal age, level of education, economic parity and gender of child have no effect or contribution to PPD. It can happen to anyone and it affects 13-20% of all women who give birth.
Therefore, it’s very important for the woman suffering to have support. Otherwise the situation will only get worse. Lack of support from family members and partner can worsen the situation. So, let’s explore 6 ways to help a mother struggling with Postpartum Blues or Postpartum Depression.
Before we talk about how to help, let’s pause for just a second. If this article is relatable to you, then you’ll probably find great help in directly talking to a psychiatrist. If you or your loved one is struggling with Postpartum Blue or Depression, you can get help by booking an online video consultation or appointment with the best psychiatrist in few seconds at Marham.
Let’s talk about ways we can help mother struggling with Postpartum Blues/Depression.
1. Tell the mother, she’s not alone
1 in 5 women will probably experience postpartum depression after her child birth. It’s completely normal, and no PPD isn’t alone in her experience. There are support groups as well as professionals ready to help her through it.
If you are a family member or partner of a mother going through it, you should educate yourself on PPD and communicate to mother that she’s not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with her.
If you are a mother, tell your daughter or daughter-in-law how some of the 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 soon would see 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, but she’s a good mother nonetheless. 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 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. Help her to not feel any shame in taking medication
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 starts taking 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 other 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
You might like to say to mother suffering from PPD, that you’ll be there for her, or ask her to let you know if she needs anything. While this is a good offering, but not the best for the situation.
But mothers struggle with guilty of 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 say things like “you always wanted a baby, you should be happy”
Suffering mothers would love to be happy, if they could, they would be.
But many people might tell them, “you should feel blessed, God blessed you with a baby”.
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 illness. This way, everyone can offer better support and empathy.
6. Tell the mother, we’re here for you as long as it takes
A big misconception around the illness might be that if you or your loved has been diagnosed with postpartum depression, you or your loved one would get better fast. Treatment takes time. It can take from a few weeks to months.
Don’t offer your support to mother for two or three weeks, let her know you’re there for her as long as it takes for her to completely recover.
Also communicate, if it’s your partner, that you’ll be okay listening to her about hard stuff. It’s our tendency to make the pain go away as soon as possible. Realize that she might feel bad for very long. Say things like ‘if you want to cry, I can sit with you while you cry without any judgement’.
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 with PPD. The sooner they get back on your their feet, the better it will be for both – them and their children.
These are the words of a mother coming out of postpartum depression:
“…the numbness that had shrouded over me was beginning to wear off. It felt like a cool breeze following endless dog days of summer. And almost like a switch had gone off in life, I felt things start to improve. Every day the fog would get thinner and thinner.”
This is a mental health issue that often gets unnoticed because of misconceptions how women ought to feel or not. The best way to deal with it is to educate yourself as a family member and watch out for signs of the baby blues in your partner or loved one.
If you or your loved one is showing any sign of numbness or sadness after child birth, the mother might be in dire need of medical help. Get help for yourself or your loved by talking directly to a psychiatrist. Book your video consultation or appointment with a psychiatrist at Marham, a psychiatrist who would listen to you unconditionally and prioritizes you and your problems.
If you are a struggling mother, know these (these are the words of another mother who came out of PPD):
“Always remember: you know yourself best; if you feel there is a problem, talk to someone about it. Reach out to the support groups and connect with other women who have felt the same way. Tell your doctor you feel this way at your sixth week follow up or even sooner.”
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