Supporting someone you love through postpartum depression can be challenging. You want your loved one to get better and back to “their old selves”, however, it can take time. The average length of treatment for postpartum depression is three to four months. Depending on the symptoms, treatment can feel like a process of two steps forward and one step back. Don’t give up, with time your loved one will heal.
Postpartum Depression Can Affect Anyone
Postpartum Depression is more common that most people think. One in seven women will experience depression, anxiety, or both, at some point during the first two years of their child’s life. Fortunately, we have learned a lot about all perinatal mood disorders through research. We know have a better understanding of risk factors as well as effective interventions, making postpartum depression very treatable.
One of the key factors in the success rates of treating the symptoms of postpartum depression is ensuring the client has a healthy level of social/emotional support. This can include individual and group therapy, medication, social gatherings. It also requires the support and understanding of family, friends and partners.
One of the best things you can offer your loved one is to be emotionally present and listen without judgment.
An example of what this looks like in a conversation with someone who is suffering with postpartum depression is:
- Ask your loved one if she would mind if you sit/walk with her, inviting her to share how she is feeling. You can provide reassurance that you will try your best to just listen.
- Provide reassurance you will actively try to avoid judging her. You can do this by refraining from interjecting your own opinions and thoughts.
- If your loved one does wish to share her feelings and thoughts, listen carefully without interrupting.
- When she is finished speaking or when there is a natural opening in the conversation, reflect back to her the feelings/thoughts she has shared. When reflecting, again, try not to interject any of your own feelings, thoughts and/or opinions. Instead, try to remember exactly what she said and summarize her feelings.
- Validate her feelings. You may not agree with everything she is feeling or thinking- that is okay. The most helpful thing right now is to allow her to share how she feels and provide reassurance. It is important for her to know her feelings are okay to share.
- Ask your loved one if there is anything you can do to support her right now. This might be as simple as getting a glass of water, holding the baby so she can take a break or simply being a shoulder to cry on in that moment. She may not know what might be helpful and that is okay too. You can simply acknowledge the challenge of feeling how she feels and the desire to feel better.
- It may also be helpful to provide reassurance to your loved one that she is not alone, there are supports around her and that she will not feel like this forever.
Assess the Risk for Suicide
If your loved one expresses thoughts of suicidal ideation, a suicide plan or any other intentions to harm herself or others this is to be taken seriously. Suicidal ideation and attempts do occur during postpartum depression. It is a risk factor of this type of condition. Remain with your loved one, provide non-judgmental support and review the action plan for getting help. If you believe your loved one may be at risk for harming themselves or someone else, proceed to your nearest emergency room or call 911.
Additional Resources: The More Support the Better
For support from the comfort and privacy of your own home mothers and partners can make use of the PSI chat line. Trained clinicians offer free, confidential support every Wednesday.
There is also a support group for dads the first Monday of each month. This can be very helpful for dads whose partners are suffering and they are looking for resources and ways to support.
To access the PSI support visit the expert chat line webpage.
While PSI is dedicated specifically to postpartum mood disorders, there are general help lines that can also be helpful during a time of crisis. These helplines are confidential, free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Crisis Text line: Text HOME to 741741
At Sage House our trained clinicians understand the challenges both mothers and partners experience following the birth of a child. We are experts in providing compassionate support and guidance during his very delicate time. Whether it is managing symptoms, ensuring a bond with the new baby or navigating a new normal we are here for your family.
To schedule a complimentary phone consultation with a member of our team please click here.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.