Encourage the mother to see her GP or Health Visitor if she has not done so already. Unless she is happy about being alone, try to make sure that a mother with postnatal depression does not have to cope by herself. She will find coping much harder on her own and she is potentially at risk. Sometimes a Health Visitor can arrange help in the home.
Let her talk about her feelings and anxieties. No matter how irrational they may seem. They are real enough to her, so don’t dismiss them. Don’t try to reason with her, mothers suffering from postnatal depression may find it difficult to think logically. Don’t say things like “pull yourself together”. This is just what she is unable to do, and she is probably feeling guilty about it.
If you have not had depression yourself it can be very hard to understand, and can also be frightening. Try and be as patient and understanding as you can be. Why not talk to others who have suffered, and don’t be ashamed to mention the word depression. Talking to someone else might help you to understand.
She really needs to know and believe that you love her and that everyone will stand by her what ever. Do not make her feel that her depression is her fault and that only she can make herself better. Try to give gentle and constant encouragement. Try not to criticise her, pointing out all the jobs she has left undone, this will only make her feel worse or a failure.
Her self confidence may be low so try to boost it and help her self esteem. When she looks nice, tell her so! When she does something good, tell her! We all have good qualities and talents. Try to be positive about the things she is good at. If it is at all possible, try to arrange some quality time together, such as a meal out, trip to the cinema, or a walk in the park.
Practical ways you can help: Make sure that she is eating properly. After childbirth a mother needs to build up reserves of vitamins and minerals. She may have a poor appetite or be unable to get round to eating. You could prepare her food for her so that all she needs to do is eat it. Shopping or cooking can help. Encourage her to treat herself.
Try to encourage her to take time to relax regularly. Relaxation exercises could
benefit you both, so why not try doing relaxation classes together? When she is feeling particularly depressed she may not feel that relaxation exercises will help. It wouldn’t be an instant cure, but it will help, perhaps slowly at first, but it is worth trying and it is worth giving it time to work.
Let her spend as much time with the baby as she wants without worrying about other tasks. Try to share/delegate other jobs such as cleaning, washing etc amongst friends and family. During the daytime, make sure she takes time to rest if you do take the baby, rather than trying to catch up with the housework.
Offer to have the baby if the mother is happy about it. Try to take turns with
changing and washing the baby and feeding if possible so one of you gets a good nights rest. Encourage her to get out, with or without the baby or to go out with friends, but don’t force her to go out if she does not feel up to it.
Sometimes, something as simple and obvious as a hug or a cuddle can help. We all like to be held and cuddled from time to time, not in a sexual way, but in a protective and caring way. The occasional cuddle will not suddenly make all your troubles go away, but it helps and feels good! Other children can help here too, once they know that “Mummy is feeling poorly” or Mummy is feeling sad they will usually help with cuddles as well. It is important that they realise that Mummy is ill and it is not their fault, they need reassuring that they are loved as well.
She will be better one day! It does not happen overnight, it can happen so gradually that you cannot put a date or time to it. The good days appear more, the bad ones less. When she begins to have a few good days in a row she will then probably have the odd bad day. Don’t be cross with her. It is part of the gradual process of getting better. Justly gently remind her that better days are ahead.
Try to give lots of encouragement and praise. If she achieves something that day, no matter how small it may seem to you, give praise where it is due, but without patronising. Depression tends to make the sufferer ignore the good things that happen to them and dwell on the negative things, so try to be positive.
As difficult as it can be, try not to show anger or frustration at her depression. When your partner is feeling depressed she will feel very vulnerable and will pick up signs of anger. You will undoubtedly get upset at times - Why not ring our helpline and tell us about your feelings?
Helpline 0117 975 6006