5 Ways to Help New Moms who May be At Risk for Postpartum Depression

30 July 2016

Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety effects 10-15% of new moms.  It is the number one complication of childbirth.  Armed with this information here are some ways you can help support a new mom in your life to help reduce the risks and guide her to get the help she needs.

  1. Learn about perinatal mood disorders. Spend some time reading about the depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis that can occur during the postpartum period.  If you know what some of the signs are, you’ll be better prepared to help the new mom get the help she needs.  The Postpartum Support International Website has all the information you need to get started http://www.postpartum.net/
  1. Provide and coordinate as much practical help as possible. Many moms get caught up in decorating the nursery and picking out cute baby outfits, but very little time on preparing how to manage life with a newborn because most people make it sound like it will be the best time of their lives with their new bundle of joy.  Find out from the mom who she has in her life and how they will be helping.  Does she have a group of women organizing and bringing meals?  Does she have her own mother or other family members coming to help (and are these people actually a real help and not a cause of more stress!).   Could she benefit from a cleaning service, or even a doula?  If she has other children, does she have anyone who can come and spend time with them?   If the new mom doesn’t seem concerned about these aspects, or feels guilty about needing help,  be sure to gently share and normalize that having a baby and the recovery is both a physically and emotionally demanding time and that asking for and receiving help is essential for both hers and her family’s wellbeing.  The more prepared mom can be with what the challenges will be, the better.
  1. During the days and week after the baby is born, be sure to take initiative in checking in on mom. Most people that come to visit will focus on the baby but when you call or visit take time to ask mom “so how are you doing?”  Make sure to follow up in providing and coordinating some of the items in #2.   Offer to stay with the baby while she takes a nap, or offer to do some laundry or cook a meal during your visit.  Many people are more than happy to visit new mom and baby but very few think about stepping in to help with tasks.
  1. Listen and validate. When it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, everyone has an opinion on the “right” way to do it and well-meaning advice often comes across as critical and judgmental.  If mom is sharing her frustrations, avoid the temptation to tell her what she is doing wrong or what the “right” way to do it is.  Instead listen openly and acknowledge that parenting is hard work and that almost all mothers feel this way even if it isn’t talked about openly.  Assure her that struggling or feeling frustrated does not make her a “bad mom” but just a human one.   If you do offer suggestions phrase it in the way of “this may not fit for you but here are a few things I tried”
  1. If mom makes comments that lead you to believe she may be struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety, let her know to seek professional help. Let her know that postpartum depression and anxiety is a very real illness but is also very treatable and that she doesn’t have to continue to suffer.   If mom makes comments about wanting to hurt herself or her baby, or seems out of touch with reality-hearing or seeing things that aren’t there, she may be at risk or suffering from postpartum psychosis.  Postpartum psychosis is very rare effecting only 1-2% of births but is considered a medical emergency due to the risks involved.  In these situations contact 911 or other emergency hotline.

Bina Bird, MA,. LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving Haslet, TX and the surrounding DFW areas.  Learn more about me at http://hasletcounseling.com or call 817.676.8858 for a free phone consultation.  My specialties include couples, preteens/adolescents, and women's issues-infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, postpartum and other life transitions. 

Disclaimer: The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. Reading articles and content on this website does not constitute a therapeutic relationship.