What are the signs and symptoms and how can I help?
Mothers, the strongest creature in our world. They are able to do the job of six people in one day, for multiple children. They are able to go almost all day without drinking water or eating well, or even taking time for themselves! We see this strength almost right after a mother finds out she is pregnant. She puts her child before everything. She goes back to school, not because she wants to, but because she sees the future she could provide for her children. We don’t, however, see her inner struggle. We don’t see the mom with a week old newborn struggling to stay afloat mentally. We don’t see the battle—no, the war—that is going on inside of her mind that she is fighting everyday. She is strong, but she can’t do it on her own.
Now that I am reaching the age where most of my friends and family members are having children, this is a very important subject for me. With my line of work, being a technician in a behavioral health unit, I see what these mothers go through and I greatly want to be able to help those who are important to me from not experiencing this. In this article, I am hoping to give others the information that they need to help the women who are important to them. I want to explain the symptoms she will go through that she might not see herself. I also want to give information to new moms who are worried about what can happen.
The Need to Socialize
Now, if it’s winter and it has been snowing and you don’t want to go out with your newborn, that is totally rational. It’s completely normal for a mother to want to protect her child. However, when you don’t even want to see your family, or even your spouse, this becomes a sign of postpartum depression.
In order to best help these mothers, offer your friendship. Stop in, and let the mother take care of herself while you help with the baby. Give her time to herself, and then spend time with her. Do things that she enjoys, or which relax her. Offer her support when she won’t ask for it. Mothers often find themselves feeling guilty for needing help from family or friends. They feel as though they are letting their child, or children, down by not being able to care for them by themselves.
Hopeless and Emptiness
Depression is often characterized by sadness. Oftentimes, it is so much more than that. Sometimes it’s staring at the last four dishes in the sink and seeing them as a mountain of dishes. Or waking up after a great night’s sleep, and feeling like you weigh twice as much.
Other times the mother just feels, well, nothing. If you ask her how she is doing, she will say she’s fine, or she’s okay, when, inside of her mind, nothing is happening. No sadness, no happiness, just being. In order to best help these mothers, try to be a constant in their lives. Be there when they might be overwhelmed as somebody who will listen to them. Help them find what they enjoyed before, and bring a newfound love to them. Offer your companionship to them constantly—it really is what they need the most.
Lack of Appetite
Lack of appetite can be a symptom throughout the entire pregnancy. Let’s be honest, that pesky morning sickness will help destroy any favorite foods you might have had before. Your once favorite casserole could send you to the bathroom quicker than anytime before. With postpartum depression you feel hunger, just not the desire to eat.
To best help the mothers in your life, offer nutritious and light meals after they give birth. Encourage them to keep up their healthy habits in order to take care of their child. Avoid using blaming language, though. Postpartum depression is never the mother’s fault, and you need to be a confidant and trusted friend for them during this time.
This is a symptom that can be misunderstood during the first few weeks after birth. It’s common knowledge that new parents lose an insane amount of sleep. With the baby needing to eat every two hours, being changed after that, as well as just needing comfort from the mother or father, you lose a lot of sleep. Insomnia happens when the mother is unable to sleep, even when given the chance. An example would be if the mother comes over to help tend the children, the mother is exhausted and can barely keep her eyes open, yet, she can’t sleep because her mind is racing or she has too many worries keeping her awake. This would be the time to worry.
The best way we can help these mothers is to, again, be there for her. Hear her worries and validate her feelings. Even if they are farfetched, validate that she is allowed to feel. You can help her realize what is incorrect about what she worries about but do not make her feel bad for having thoughts and worries.
Anger, one of a more common trait amongst pregnant women. Hormone are very tricky things that can affect the mother in many different ways. It can make a mother cry at a Geico commercial or laugh uncontrollably at absolutely nothing. It can also affect her anger as well. With postpartum depression, the anger affects her every day. It could be the drop of a pin that angers her or even thoughts she has, which is called 'internal stimuli.' This anger is very difficult to control and can happen at anytime.
This anger is a sign that the mother is very overwhelmed and reaching the end of her rope. She is hurting and needs help. Be an option for her to vent, there is usually a starting point from where the anger came from, help her find out what it is.
In short, be there for the mothers in your life. Be a constant support system and show how much you love and care for them. Remember, postpartum depression is never the mother’s fault; it is something that she is going through, and might have been going through alone. Care about them, love them, take care of them. Help these mothers gain back their strength to be the strongest creatures in our world.