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This is a personal reflection on dealing with postpartum depression. Here are some words of advice on helping a friend going through postpartum depression, which can be frustrating to see.
- Look after your friend's baby every now and then. This will allow your friend time to sleep, exercise or hit Starbucks for a decaf and read a favorite magazine. This is especially helpful for mothers with babies suffering from a condition or illness, such as colic; the mother needs a break now and then.
- Ask your friend, "What do you need right now?", "What would you like more than anything right now?" If she answers, "my bathroom to be cleaned" - by all means do it! :)
- Provide pampering gifts for your friend. Give little gifts like herbal teas and bath soaks to pamper her with. A great example is peppermint foot spray (try the Body Shop). It soothes aching feet. But don't forget to also consider a real treat - a pampering day at the Spa, whilst you take care of the bubs.
- Cook meals for her that are nutritious and hot. Get a group of friends together to do this, to reduce the effort and provide variety. Tired mothers generally crave a good hot meal and it takes them a lot of effort to make a meal so this is a fabulous help! One idea is to arrange for several friends and family to alternate meals each week for her. A quick and easy way to invite loved ones to help with this effort is through a website like www.foodtidings.com. Foodtidings allows you to input food likes and dislikes (including take out), and any food allergies mom and the family may have. It also maintains the schedule so the loved ones you have invited to bring meals can sign up for a specific day and what meal they are bringing. Foodtidings even sends out a reminder email to you the day before you are scheduled to bring a meal. A meal schedule like this gives mom something to look forward to each day. (Note: If you're the mother-in-distress, be bold and ask for this kind of help if it has not been offered. Don't be too shy or afraid to ask or you may end up lonely, undernourished and depressed. :( )
- If your friend is able, take her for a walk with her new baby. Getting outside is the absolute best thing for a cooped up mother! Find a great park or something with paths away from busy traffic. Walk past a playground so your friend can see happy moms and children playing. Sometimes this is encouraging and sparks some life back into a depressed mother. It also helps her to realize that the world goes on, that there is life outside the four walls of the house and that other mothers are about too. If your friend is experiencing PP Anxiety, she may not be ready to see other mothers and children. If this is the case, intentionally take her places that will provide her with a feeling of normalcy and where children are not present.
- Help your friend make the call to the doctor if need be, and go with her for support if she would like. Being a new mom with postpartum depression requires advocating for oneself from the lowest place she has ever, probably, been.
- Let your friend know you're available any time of the day or night.
- Let your friend know that if there's ever an emergency that you'll happily look after the baby - this is an offer that cannot be stressed enough because the worry of not having this emergency resort is quite overwhelming.
- Reassure your friend that a baby is far more important than a tidy house. Help her get a cleaner if she can't afford one or get a working bee together of trusted, non-judgmental friends.
- Keep an eye on her progress; if she isn't improving after the hard first three months and she hasn't already seen a doctor, haul her off to one. Yes, even with protests - she needs to get her life back again.
- Postpartum depression can be caused (or worsened) by low hormone levels: most commonly progesterone. Progesterone helps keep serotonin levels from dropping too low, and low serotonin can cause depression. Progesterone levels are very high during pregnancy, and rapidly drop in order to trigger labor; sometimes the levels do not recover for a time after delivery, which may lead to PPD. Doctors can test for low progesterone and prescribe it; it is even available without prescription (Progest is a good brand). Progesterone is okay to use while nursing (consider that many women nurse successfully while pregnant, when their progesterone levels are very high).
- Do talk to your doctor before engaging in any exercise routine.
- Talk to your doctor about your feelings. If you feel your doctor doesn't understand or is dismissive, change doctors or asked to be referred to a psychologist or other relevant health care professional. Don't suffer in silence.
- Suicidal or homicidal thoughts are medical emergencies - any mother with thoughts of hurting herself or her baby(babies) should be taken to the nearest emergency room, calling for an ambulance is the safest way to accomplish this.
Sources and Citations
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