Understanding Your Loved One’s Postnatal Depression and What to Say
Postnatal Depression (PND) is a period of depression mothers experience after having a baby. 1 in 5 mothers will experience mental health problems in Pregnancy, up to their child’s first birthday (MIND, 2016). Research now shows that 1 in 25 new fathers experience Postnatal Depression (NHS, 2016)
A lot of women do not even realise they have postnatal depression, and often loved ones spot signs before they do. Symptoms can gradually get worse over time; research shows the earlier PND is detected, the easier it is to treat. Symptoms can vary, here are some to look out for;
- Loss in appetite.
- Difficulty sleeping when the baby is sleeping.
- Constant feeling of fatigue and general lack of energy.
- Cancelling plans and withdrawing contact from people.
- Worrying thoughts constantly running through your mind.
- Difficulty bonding with the baby.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Memory problems.
- Frightening thoughts.
- Loss in Libido
PND is caused by a variety of factors; it’s a myth that it’s only caused by hormonal changes. Some of these factors are:
- A history of mental illness.
- Lack of support from friends and family.
- A poor relationship with a partner.
- Financial stress.
- Bereavement, or another life event.
- A traumatic birth.
- Depression during pregnancy.
- Lack of sleep.
- A loss in identity.
What to Say and Do
It can often be difficult to understand what to do or say when someone you love experiences these symptoms. Research has shown that PND improves with the support from someone. It’s important to remember that although common, PND must be treated very seriously, so that the right support can be put in place.
Talk to your loved one in a kind, respectful way. A lot of people can be defensive at first, they can feel like a bad parent and worry that people think the baby is unsafe.
“How are you feeling?”
This is a good way to open the conversation. A lot of people surprisingly don’t get asked this question as the focus is always on the baby.
It can be a frightening time for the individual and reassurance is needed.
“I have noticed….”
This is another way to start the conversation; you can say that you have noticed that they seem more; teary, tired, etc. Explain that they could be having signs of PND.
“I am here for you”
A lot of people will get defensive when you first bring up PND, but let them know that you are there for them. Be patient and they are likely to come back to you for support.
‘What can I do to help?”
This gives the parent an opportunity to say what’s important to them, and what will make things easier.
“You’re not alone”
This helps with feelings of isolation.
Give practical support and TLC.
Show your loved one they are cared for. Cook, clean, help with the baby. Encourage self-care such as taking a bath, reading a book etc.
Do not dismiss how they are feeling.
Do not minimise anything they say, as this could be detrimental.
Reassure them that they will not feel like this forever, however it is key to their recovery that they get help straight away.
“I will do my best to understand”
It’s quite common for someone to say, “You don’t understand”, try not to get defensive. Just reassure them that you will do your best and you are here to support them.
“I can come with you?”
They need to see the General Practitioner (GP), so that they can be fully assessed and given the right support. Offer to go with them, or make the appointment. If they are too scared to leave the house, telephone the GP and request an urgent home visit.
Once assessed by the GP, they will advise the right treatment for them. There is a range of psychological therapies available, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). They will advise the most suitable for the individual’s needs.
The GP may also suggest regular visits from the Health Visitor as they are trained in monitoring and supporting individuals with PND.
Anti-depressants are another option, which work well for some individuals. Talking therapies also need to be arranged in conjunction with this.
Support groups are another option but only when the person is ready. Group therapy can be quite daunting at first, and this is something that most people want to lead up to.
Baby Massage is another treatment that works well with other therapies. This strengthens attachment between parent and infant and promotes positive touch. This is extremely therapeutic for both.
Postnatal Depression affects everyone in different ways. The most important thing is to help your loved one seek help. It’s also important to look after yourself, and be kind as it can be hard for both individuals. Just remember that with the right support and a holistic approach, PND can be treated.
MIND (2016) Understanding Postnatal Depression and Mental Health. [Online] file:///Users/user/Downloads/true%20(1).pdf [Accessed 11th November, 2017]
NHS  Postnatal Depression. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/ [Accessed 11th November, 2017]
The information on this website is for general information and it is not intended as, nor should it be considered as a substitute for seeing your own GP, midwife or healthcare professional. You are advised to seek professional medical advice if you have any concerns or suspect you have a medical problem.