Most mothers know that having a baby is “supposed” to be a happy time Yet for some women, postpartum mood disorders detract significantly from these happy feelings. This can put serious stress and strain on marital and other relationships. Being informed is the best way to keep your relationship safe during this difficult time.
Women with postpartum depression can have unrealistic expectations for themselves at a time of great transition, feeling that they should be able to do everything immediately for themselves and their newborn because they should be “super-mom” and “super-wife.”
Marriage and Family Therapist, Kelly Hoffman, M.S., had advice for women who may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Baby Blues are different from postpartum depression. Baby blues often manifests right after the baby is born and is a sense of heightened emotion, both teary-ness and happiness.
In contrast, postpartum depression is an illness with a biochemical basis. Although no one is sure what the exact cause is, researchers believe that the hormone-level shifts that occur during pregnancy and after childbirth may contribute to chemical changes in the brain. That, combined with the stresses and fatigue that accompany having a new baby, can lead to depression.
Signs of postpartum depression that OTHERS may notice:
A depressed mood lasting most of every day.
• The absence of laughter or play with the infant
• A downcast or blank facial expression.
• Persistent sadness.
• Comments about flaws she perceives in herself or the infant.
• Indications of feelings of guilt or inadequacy.
• Indecisiveness about ordinary matters.
Signs of postpartum that only YOU may notice:
• Noticeable irritation, especially related to the infant’s fussing or crying.
• Struggling for perfection.
• Feeling overwhelmed or feeling a sense of failure.
• Experiencing shattered expectations.
• Plunging into despair.
• Having difficulty focusing and concentrating.
• Feeling lonely.
• Having difficulty sleeping.
• Lacking appetite.
• Feeling as though she is losing her mind.
• Struggling to survive.
What to do:
The primary strategies for meeting the challenge of postpartum depression are to strengthen the couple’s relationship and increase the husband’s/partner’s sensitivity. It is essential that the new mother have help and support from someone in activities like these:
• Taking over household tasks and the care of other children.
• Limiting the number of visitors to foster a peaceful environment. (For some women, however, having visitors may help alleviate symptoms of depression.)
• Helping the mother get enough rest, appropriate nutrition, and exercise.
• Assisting with infant care
• Becoming educated about postpartum depression.
• Offering the gift of presence—listening, caring, and just being with her. Accompanied by a hug, a healing conversation may be just one sentence long: “This must be very hard for you.”
• Encouraging the new mother to get professional assistance as appropriate.
Some SPECIFIC strategies for coping:
(If you can it will help alot; to finance it, think where else you can cut in the budget!!!!)
get an extra pair of hands
night time nanny
nanny for helping during the day, especially with other kids
(EVERYONE CAN with no cost)
join a mother’s group
ask for help
get a babysitting club with other mom’s going
invite other mom’s over, or if thats too overwhelming, schedule park dates, walks together, anything to inject your life with positive energy from other people
Whatever keeps your emotional tank full, do it (as long as it harms no one else or your finances).
REMEMBER for you:
ANYONE can experience postpartum:
I myself successfully counseled 3 women on postpartum depression just before I had my second child. I thought I was all set and knew what to expect, but surprise! I got to experience postpartum depression first hand. It was interesting to hear my own advice in my head as I was thinking and doing the VERY SAME things the women who had come to me for treatment had thought and felt.
(SPECIFIC EXAMPLES; the messy house mantra, I feel like my life is out of control, not wanting to get out of bed)
In some ways it was very helpful to have counseled others on this very subject, I knew what was happening and understood things intellectually even if I was melting down emotionally. At least I always knew that I was not alone in thinking that my life felt out of control, and that nursing seemed to extend emotional volatility. But living it was still difficult, and I sometimes couldn’t understand how I could be so intellectually aware of what was going on but so emotionally out of control.
REMEMBER for spouses:
Postpartum depression may be difficult for a husband to understand, and sometimes he may react with
It may be helpful for him to engage in counseling or reading to increase his understanding of postpartum depression and to learn how he can be most helpful. His doing so can benefit both of you.
For women who experience postpartum depression, “The smallest task seems insurmountable because I lacked emotional and physical energy. I was so grateful that my husband was understanding and compassionate and assisted me in getting the help I so sorely needed.”