How to Help a Mom with Postpartum Depression
Having a baby can be both elating and exhausting. It’s common for new moms to be emotional, show some signs of stress and anxiety, and even come across as rather distant after the birth of their baby.

The “baby blues” typically last no longer than a couple of weeks and subside on their own. But what if the changes in disposition don’t go away?

The American Psychological Association reports that up to 1 in 7 women experience a much more serious mood disorder following a child’s birth — postpartum depression. If you are a partner, spouse, family member or friend who may be concerned that a new mom might be dealing with postpartum depression, it’s time to be curious, ask questions of your loved one and listen closely.

Connect and Get Help

Certified childbirth educator Jessie Prim, who leads the Postpartum Support Group at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, added that helping a new mom work through difficult postpartum emotions isn’t about being confrontational. Rather, it’s a time to “walk alongside the woman and ask questions that may help her understand what is going on with her physically, mentally and even spiritually.”

“Family members and friends can help by being in tune to signs in women who become isolative, anxious, withdrawn or exhibit dramatic changes in mood,” said Prim. “Some degree of emotional change is natural after childbirth due to the surge in hormones that happens during pregnancy but some women can have dramatic surges in hormones after birth that can lead to severe depression. Look for clues that something is really wrong and seek the assistance of a behavioral health professional when you suspect more than the baby blues. If a woman expresses thoughts of harming herself or her baby, a call to 9-1-1 or a trip to an emergency department for evaluation is warranted.”

Prim offers these behaviors to watch for as possible signs and symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Irritability, anger, nervousness, anxiety, or expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Trouble concentrating or managing daily tasks
  • Not enjoying life as much as in the past/social withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in the baby, friends and/or other family members
  • Lack of interest in sex

How to Approach the Subject

If you believe a new mom may be experiencing postpartum depression, it’s important to take action. A good place to start is by asking the mom what she is feeling. Prim offers these questions as a way of approaching the issue with a loved one:

  • Are you unable to sleep, or do you feel like sleeping all the time?
  • When was the last time you ate and drank, and how many times today?
  • What kind of support do you have for yourself and baby?
  • Do you have any regrets about the birth process and what actually occurred?
  • How do you feel about your newborn?
  • Are you breastfeeding and how is it going?
  • Have you talked to anyone about your feelings, such as your obstetrician, a friend or significant other?

The kinds of responses you get to these questions may signal your next step in helping your loved one. 

You Are Not Alone

Texas Health Behavioral Health welcomes referral calls to its help line 24/7 at 682-549-7961 from physicians, counselors, therapists, family members and others who may be concerned about a woman’s mental, emotional and physical well-being. Texas Health Behavioral Health facilities offer free comprehensive assessments, which include depression screening, every day of the year.

Texas Health offers several support groups for moms who feel they may be struggling with postpartum depression. Moms can interact with one another and share their concerns — seeking support from others who are experiencing the same highs and lows. Find a support group. If you feel a loved one might cause immediate harm to herself or her baby, please call 9-1-1.

For more information and other resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).

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