If she’s not wanting help
If she’s not wanting help or to admit there is a problem
[Adapted from: http://www.panda.org.au/images/stories/PDFs/Panda_FS8_HowtoHelptheMother.pdf ]
It may be hard for a new mother to admit that she’s going through a postpartum depression. With an emphasis on the joys and bliss of motherhood, our society doesn’t make it easy for mothers who don’t live up to the motherhood myth. New mothers will often put a lot of effort into convincing the world that they are doing fine, when, in fact, they are falling apart on the inside.
“I’m not getting any information. I’m supposed to be a mind reader. So, what does she need right now? I make my best guess and it’s almost always wrong.”
Here are some of the reasons why a new mom might not recognize that she is suffering from postpartum depression:
- She doesn’t know what postpartum depression and anxiety is, and doesn’t know what the signs are.
- She has an overwhelming need to be seen as a “good mother” and doesn’t want anyone to know that she is struggling.
- She may not want to ask for help because of the stigma of mental illness
- She doesn’t want to admit that she can’t “handle things.”
- She may be horrified or ashamed by the thoughts that she is having, and feel that others will judge her harshly.
- She explains away her struggle and thinks and hopes that things will improve on their own.
- She may have tried to share her feelings with you, a family member, friend or doctor, and felt dismissed or judged.
- She may be blaming you or someone else close to her for how she is feeling.
- She has had previous bad experiences with health professionals.
- She fears going on medication and thinks that would be the treatment if she were to ask for help.
- She fears that her baby will be taken away if she isn’t coping.
- She doesn’t know that help is available.
As someone close to her, you may be able to spot the signs, even if she appears to be doing well to the rest of the world.
It is important that she gets help. Left untreated, postpartum depression can get much worse.
The ongoing stress can cause marital breakdown and it also places her partner more at risk to suffer from postpartum depression. Untreated postpartum depression can have lasting effects on the whole family.
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from postpartum depression, but she is reluctant to have a conversation about the topic, there are things that you can do:
- Educate yourself on postpartum depression and anxiety. This will give you insight as to what is going on with her and how to help.
- Get support for yourself. Talk to a friend or family member about your experience. Call Pacific Post Partum Support Society—we are here for you as well.
- Avoid making significant decisions during this time. Neither one of you is thinking clearly enough while one (or both) of you has PPD/A. Things will look different when stress is diminished.
- Be patient and listen to her. Try to guide her to realize that she needs help. If she won’t listen to you, it can be very frustrating. Don’t take this frustration out on her; instead talk to a family member or friend about your feelings.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel that she could be a danger to herself or the baby, contact a health care profession, a crisis line or, if needed, take her to the Emergency Department at the hospital.
Here are some tips on how to encourage her to honestly look at her feelings and to consider how she is coping:
- Acknowledge how hard it is to be a new mother. Let her know that it’s normal to struggle.
- Validate her feelings, even if they don’t seem right to you. (e.g., acknowledge her anxiety, even if the things she’s anxious about seem silly.)
- Point out the little things that she is doing well; minimize the impact of her “failures.” (e.g., if she forgot to put wipes in the baby’s diaper bag, let her know that it’s not a big deal.)
- Encourage her to share her feelings; make sure she doesn’t feel judged by you when she does.
- Ask open-ended questions:
- It seems like you’re not getting much sleep…?
- This is an overwhelming time for all new parents, how are you feeling?
- Lots of mothers have a difficult time. Everyone needs support, I’m wondering how you’re feeling and what I can do to support you…?
- How has your experience been different from what you were expecting? Are there things about being a mom that you’re finding challenging?