Postpartum Mood Disorder, (PPMD), is the No. 1 complication with childbirth. It affects 15 to 20 per cent of new mothers, and is often undiagnosed in women, leaving new moms worrying and wondering why they don’t feel ‘normal.’PPMD can affect women who have had a baby, stillborn child or miscarriage, women who are pregnant or after weaning their child from breastfeeding. PPMD can include any number of symptoms: obsessive-compulsive behavior, depression, anxiety or anger. Lindsay Bagley, a licensed mental health counselor and master’s-level therapist, suggests talking with a trusted friend is the first step in reaching out for help.
Though you can’t diagnose PPMD unless you are a professional, if you have a friend who you think is struggling after having a baby, there are ways that you can help them.
The gift of a nap - Offer to babysit so that she can take a nap. Sleep not only helps ease symptoms of PPMD, it will help any mom who is feeling the toll of sleep deprivation. If she is willing, take her baby out on a walk with your own little one or let her drop her baby off at your house for a visit. You can babysit while your child is busy playing or walking, and she can take a nap back at her house or at yours.
Dinner’s on you - Schedule a day and time when you can bring dinner to her house. Bringing dinner to a friend after she’s had a baby not only helps because it’s one less thing to try to do in the day, it can also help alleviate the surge in expenses that happens after a baby is born. These pressures can add to symptoms of PPMD. If you are short on time, you can always pick up a pre-made chicken, bagged salad and a frozen side dish or a homemade one. Don’t forget to throw in some chocolate!
Bring coffee and leave judgments at the door - Bring her a cup of coffee or her favorite decaffeinated drink and listen to what she is feeling and experiencing right now. Don’t dismiss or try to solve her problems, but listen and let her feel heard. It might be hard to listen without trying to fix all of her problems, but a listening ear is what she really needs right now. If she says something that truly concerns you, encourage her to reach out to a professional who can help her.
Share your experience - Perhaps you’ve been through PPMD yourself. If you feel you can, share your experience with her and let her know she is not alone. Sharing your experience, Bagley says, can help others feel less isolated and alone. PPMD can be a very misunderstood condition and goes undiagnosed for so many moms. Let your friend know she deserves good health and happiness.
Hook her up with a community - Did you have a baby group that helped you feel a part of a community? Perhaps you found one through a hospital, or perhaps there is a walking group or a mommy and me class that helped you meet other moms. Let your friend know which organizations and groups were helpful to you or ones you have heard about. It is empowering to have the support of new moms with babies the same age as yours, who provide a community. There is a normalizing power to realize that other moms are going through the same or similar challenges.
Help her to reach out further - If your friend would like more support, she can start by contacting Postpartum Support International (PSI). PSI has a ‘warm line’at 1-800-944-4773. This number is staffed by trained volunteers, some of whom have had PPMD themselves. They quickly return the messages left on their confidential voicemail and can help with support, information and resources. PSI also has information on local area coordinators who can give resource suggestions in your local area. For more information, visit postpartum.net. Bagley says that if a friend thinks she may have PPMD, it’s important to get help as soon as she can - not because she needs to feel guilty, but because she is worth it.
It can be hard to just listen to a friend without trying to ‘fix’her. You may even feel like you’re not doing enough to make a difference. However, sharing your own story and being open about your experiences lets them know they’re not alone. It also creates a better climate for others to share their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes helping a friend means being present with them through their storm and reminding them that they are not alone, it’s not their fault and there is help.
5 Resources for moms with PPMD:
1. Share your feelings with your obstetrician or primary care doctor.
2. Talk to supportive friends and family.
3. Join a local parent/baby group.
4. Contact Postpartum Support International’s warm line for information and resources.
5. Find a therapist who fits with your schedule and specializes in PPMD.
Ruth had PPMD after each of her two children were born, and has a special interest in helping moms advocate for themselves and know they are not alone.
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