Helping a Loved One Cope with Postpartum Depression
It is not uncommon for women to have heavy mood swings just after pregnancy. If these swings are extremely severe, they may be caused by Postpartum Depression (PPD). If it seems serious, consult a counselor or psychiatrist who has experience with postpartum depression.
Many people do not understand that postpartum depression is a physical disorder. It is not something that people can simply snap out of. A depressed mother can no more snap out of postpartum depression than you could snap out of the flu or bronchitis.
Although there is not a surefire cure for postpartum depression, there is a lot that you can do to make the new mom feel as comfortable as possible. Support and encouragement are invaluable. Encourage her to consider support groups. Social isolation will intensify postpartum depression. Remind her that the illness is only temporary and she will get better.
General fatigue is a common sign of postpartum depression and is often accompanied by a lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, loss of memory, and lowered interest in sex and activities that were previously enjoyed. Assist mom with this by helping her to develop a to-do list or schedule of tasks. At this point in time, you may need to take on nearly all baby related tasks. You can even help her with breast feeding, especially for those late night snacks. Get out of bed and get the baby, bring him to the mother and help him to latch on and switch sides when he's done with the first. Throughout it all, mom can remain only semi-conscious, and will certainly thank you in the morning.
Postpartum depression can lead to tension and anxiety which can cause headaches, neck pain, and chest tightness. Mom may also start feeling panicked or worried all the time. There are many things that she can do to relieve this tension. Suggest walking, swimming, yoga and meditation, massage, or hot compresses on the neck and shoulders. If she develops insomnia, try a warm bath before bed, a sleeping mask or a light snack and warm milk to help her sleep.
A combination of the postpartum depression, tension, and insomnia can easily lead a mother into distorted thinking and cause her to become unreasonable. She may resent your attempt at helping her or get angry for no reason. Keep in mind that it is the changes in her body that are making her act this way. Try not to take her criticism personally. Even if she is being unreasonable, do not argue with her. Avoid blaming her attitude on her hormones if that makes her angry. Some women cannot stand the accusation that they are not in control of their emotions. If you begin feeling worried that you can't handle what's happening, do not hesitate to seek counseling for yourself. Support people often need help too.