To some degree, sleeplessness, anxiety, and changing emotions are a normal result of delivery and adjustment to a new baby. However, there are times when the “baby blues” progress to postpartum depression (PPD).
Here are several signs that might indicate that someone you know is suffering with postpartum depression:
- Feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Loss of appetite
- Overwhelming guilt
- Feeling removed from her baby, spouse, or other children
- A lack of desire to care for or hold her baby
- Constant or frequent crying
- Anger toward her baby or spouse
- Refusing guests and visitors for reasons other than the health of the baby
- Thoughts of harming herself or her child
If that list brought to mind a daughter, granddaughter, or friend, what should you do? How can you help a mom who is struggling with PPD? Here are some practical ways to encourage and strengthen her.
Remember that friend I mentioned in my earlier post? For thirty years she has carried around feelings of guilt and shame over her struggle with PPD. She told me that having someone to talk to about her feelings would have made all the difference in the world. But it’s not an easy conversation to have. A mom with postpartum depression may not be able to articulate her feelings. That’s why you need to start the conversation. Try one of these simple conversation starters:
- Is there anything about motherhood that is making you feel sad or afraid?
- I know after I had my baby I felt ___________. Do you ever feel that way?
- How can I pray for you?
New moms are in a daze. The combination of a major life adjustment, sleep deprivation, and caring for the constant needs of others temporarily throws her into the Twilight Zone. Keep that in mind and don’t wait for her to call you. Ask if you can come over and hold the baby. Invite her and the baby out for a daily walk in the first few weeks. Find out if there is a task she can offload on you for a while such as grocery shopping or laundry, and connect with her often while you meet her practical needs.
The isolation that comes with new motherhood can often compound postpartum depression. Make the effort to get into her world often.
Seek the sun
I had two February babies. My baby blues were compounded by the fact that we could not go outside during the cold Missouri winter causing me to become Vitamin D deficient. It’s not a cure-all, but some time in the light can really help boost a sad momma.
Invite the PPD mom in your life to come outside with you. Plan a picnic, invite her to an afternoon in the backyard, offer to take her and her older children to the park. The point is, get that momma outside for some light therapy.
And speaking of light . . .
Use the Word
God’s Word can be a life raft to those who are struggling. That includes mommas with PPD. One of the best things you can do for a new mom who’s been thrown for a loop is to help her find specific verses to hold on to during dark days. Some examples are Philippians 4:6, Psalm 127:3, and Psalm 46:1.
Make it easy for her; write the verses out on cards she can post around the house (perhaps in the nursery to read during those middle of the night feedings).
Titus 2 is a reminder that women need each other. That’s true in all stages of life but can be especially true for a woman struggling under the weight of postpartum depression. Take it from someone who’s been there, wisdom and care from other women can be a lifeline!
Is there a mom in your world you can reach out to today?