Loving those with PPD
After having heard from Emily, Craig, and myself about postpartum depression (PPD), I wanted to wrap up the PPD portion of this pregnancy series by sharing a few practical ideas on how to love and encourage someone who is experiencing PPD. In actuality, everyone who experiences PPD has a unique experience, so as I’ve suggested before, it’s good to simply ask if there’s something specific you can do for her (or him, although I’m going to use “she” and “her” in this post to simplify things). With that being said, here are some general ideas for how to support someone with PPD (although this is definitely not an exhaustive list):
- Don’t be afraid to ask her how she is feeling or what it was like when the worst symptoms of her PPD hit. Since my close friends knew I was (or had been) struggling, it wasn’t helpful to have people act like nothing was wrong. Your entire conversation need not revolve around PPD, but acknowledging that she’s been experiencing it, telling her you are sorry it’s been a rough time, and/or asking what the experience has been like for her can reduce feelings of shame she may be experiencing. It will also let her know that you don’t think she’s a freak, which she quite probably has felt at times since developing PPD, since the topic isn’t all that freely talked about.
- Offer to do whatever needs to be done so that your friend can rest and care for herself. She may need a nap, to get out for some coffee and alone time, or have practical things done around the house. Lovingly encourage her that it’s not selfish to intentionally care for herself and check in to make sure she’s doing just that. Remind her that one of the best things she can do to care for her baby is to care for herself.
- There’s a decent chance your friend has had to start taking an antidepressant and receive counseling to help treat the symptoms of PPD. If you happen to disagree with her choices to start these types of treatment, please keep your opinion to yourself. It’s fine for you to disagree, but it’s not going to be helpful for you to share this with her at this point in time (or quite possibly, ever).
- Text or call her randomly during the day just to see how she’s feeling.
- Ask her to go for a walk with you. The exercise will be good for both of you and can be really helpful for someone who is struggling with depression.
- Talking with others who have also experienced PPD is really helpful, especially to help you remember that you’re not alone. If you have had PPD before, openly share of your experience and remind her that things will get easier. If you have never had PPD before but know someone else who has, offer to connect the 2 friends so that the friend who currently has PPD can talk to someone else who has walked the same road. Also, encourage her to seek out an area support group for women who are having/have had PPD.
- Bring the family a healthy meal.
- Pray for your friend and let her know that you are doing so. Ask her if there are any specific things that she would like for you to pray for her.
- Have your husband or another guy you know check in with the new father to see how he is doing and if he has any specific needs at that time.
If you know someone you think may be suffering from PPD (check out the symptoms in this post), please, please don’t leave them alone because you “don’t want to impose” or think it’s none of your business. PPD is a serious thing and when left untreated, can have devastating results. Love your friend and encourage her to seek some help by seeing a MD and a counselor. Be patient and willing to walk closely with her until she begins to feel better. Be willing to go to her house and just hang out (with no expectations of her) if she is afraid to be alone with her baby or just doesn’t want to be alone with her thoughts and emotions. And, if by any chance, your friend talks about hurting herself and/or her child or is experiencing hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia, insist that she seek help immediately or even call a health professional yourself on her behalf. These symptoms can be signs of something called “postpartum psychosis;” a condition that requires immediate medical intervention. (source)
Thanks so much to Craig and Emily for sharing their various experiences with PPD with us. And thanks to all of you for taking the time to read more about postpartum depression, a topic that is obviously near to my heart and one that will almost certainly impact someone you know and/or are close to. Please feel free to contact me with additional questions or thoughts about the topic via the email found on my “about” page.