How can I help someone with Postnatal depression - Part 2
In our last article, we met four different women who all had post-natal depression (PND). Their family situations, symptoms, coping mechanisms and behaviours during that time all differed. Luckily for all these women and their families, they sought help.
Here are their stories.
“The penny dropped for me when my husband called me at lunch one day and said, ‘You sound like you're crying. Are you okay?’ I said, ‘No, I'm not okay. I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do this anymore. I can't be her mum. I don't love her. I don't even like her. I don't want to be with her and I resent her. I resent that she takes me away from the twins’. ”
At first, Zoe’s husband tried to convince her she did love the baby, but when he realised there was a serious issue, he immediately took on extra household tasks and took over childcare duties so Zoe could get a decent night’s sleep.
Zoe had suffered from depression as a teenager, so she knew the symptoms, but it wasn’t until she had that first full night's sleep that she realised she was in the grip of PND and needed help. She immediately went to see her GP and started taking antidepressants. She also engaged a sleep consultant for the baby, which led to the discovery that her daughter was suffering from silent reflux.
Sarah’s road to recovery was different. Although she was in regular contact with her Maternal Health Nurse, the nurse was so focussed on breastfeeding issues that she did not pick up on Sarah’s PND symptoms.
Sarah says, “I think Maternal Health Nurses should be asking more questions about how the mother is feeling, not just how the baby is doing.”
Sarah didn't seek professional help, but her PND gradually eased with vital support and help from her husband who reassured her they were in it together and that he was there to help. Her parents also gave her much-needed respite by looking after the baby overnight from time to time. Most important of all for Sarah was the fact that her loved ones did not make her feel guilty or inadequate by questioning or judging.
In contrast to Sarah, Brooke was fortunate enough to have a Maternal Health Nurse who gave her unconditional understanding and valuable professional advice. Brooke also confided in her husband who supported her and encouraged her to be completely honest about her feelings.
Tina’s family knew all was not right, so they were thrilled when she sought professional advice from two counsellors and a G.P. When she finally found the courage to tell her friends how she had been feeling, she was shocked to learn that some of them had suffered PND too.
The hardest thing for these women came down to two things – recognising they had PND and being brave enough to articulate their feelings to someone who could help. In all these cases, support from family and friends was an essential part of their recovery.
Here are some things you can do to support a loved one going through PND.
Provide emotional support by listening even if you don’t fully understand what she is going through. Allow her to voice her feelings without fear of judgement.
Do not make light of what she is feeling, no matter how uncomfortable you are. Validate her feelings even if you don’t understand them.
Don’t tell her to ‘get over it’. Instead, reassure her that you are there for her and that PND is not a life sentence. Let her know you are in it for the long haul and will help in any way you can.
As hard as it may seem, do not take her actions or words personally.
Provide as much practical support as possible. Taking on extra household chores or childcare duties will ease some pressure and allow her some much-needed rest.
Encourage her to seek help from a professional. If she finds this difficult, offer to make the appointment for her and to accompany her to it.
Educate yourself on PND. It will help you understand some of what she is going through and will assist you in noticing if symptoms get worse.
If she is disinterested in usual activities, encourage her to take some time out and do something just for herself.
She may not be as interested in sex as she once was. Do not pressure her or make her feel guilty. She may be sleep-deprived, anxious, adjusting to changes in her body, self-conscious or worried about becoming pregnant. Again, try not to take it personally.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If the house is a mess, don’t judge. If the state of the house really worries you, do a few extra jobs yourself.
Accept offers of help and encourage her to accept offers of help. This does not make either of you inadequate parents. On the contrary, it makes you smart parents and your entire family will benefit.
Try not to use work to avoid the situation at home. This may be a difficult time for both of you, but withdrawing now will only compound problems.
At times you may feel resentful and as though it’s all about your partner and baby, so confide in a good friend or family member when things get tough.
PND is not a life sentence, but it does take time to recover from. Always encourage the sufferer to seek professional help, and if symptoms get worse, seek immediate medical advice and assistance.
*Links to places that may be able to assist are at the end of this article.
If you know someone who is suffering from PND and you want to send them something to show you care, consider sending them an Empathy Gift Box. The items in these care packages have been specifically chosen to support people suffering from grief, depression or anxiety or you can customise your own gift box tailored to your special mum having a challenging time.