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Depression After Pregnancy

How Can Partners Help Women Overcome Postpartum Depression?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 15:53

Partners can be important lifelines for women suffering from depression after pregnancy. Partners should be on the alert for characteristic symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness and worthlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Excessive exhaustion
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Anger

Need To Know:

Here are some tips for partners and friends of new mothers:

  • Remember that postpartum depression is a real illness. Your partner is not going crazy; she is simply coping with tremendous changes in her life and her body.
  • Your support is vital in the recovery process. She may think that she will never get through this. You can offer her understanding and reassurance.
  • Do not judge your partner's feelings or reactions. Do not offer solutions that she is in no mood to hear. Instead, listen and sympathize.
  • Be consistent in offering your support and understanding, and encourage her to take some time for herself. Mothers who try to be "the best" or "perfect" are most likely to become burned out.
  • Offer help without being asked or needed. Take on more responsibility around the house. More than likely, laundry is piling up, dishes need washing, and floors need sweeping. If you do just a few chores, your partner may feel less overwhelmed.
  • Care for the baby for a few hours, so the new mother can take a long bath, a walk, or read for a while.
  • If your partner or friend is unwilling to care for baby or talking about suicide, seek immediate professional help.
  • Take time for yourself. After all, you are learning new responsibilities, too. You may start to feel drained if you are trying to manage everything at once. You may even feel negative about the situation for a while, which is a normal part of the adjustment process and will pass.

Need To Know:

Babies Get Depressed, Too

Left untreated, postpartum depression may have negative effects on babies, too. A study presented at the American Psychiatric Convention showed that some babies whose mothers are depressed might also become depressed. The babies in the study all had high blood levels of cortisol, a hormone present during stress. Months later, after the mothers had been treated for depression and their cortisol levels had returned to normal, the babies' cortisol levels remained high. Researchers concluded that new mothers suffering from depression react by either smothering their babies with attention or ignoring them. Either reaction tends to stress baby. Other studies have shown that high levels of cortisol early in life can result in overreaction to stress later on. This is the best reason of all to keep yourself emotionally healthy.


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