Postpartum depression (PPD) hits you like a smack in the face. You don’t expect it, and there are no indicators that it may be coming. When my wife was diagnosed with PPD shortly after the birth of our second child, I had noticed that something was wrong. I was at a loss to explain what it was, but there was definitely something going on. To this day, I still can’t explain what it was that clued me in. Maybe it was the way my wife would look at our son, or maybe the quality of their interactions. It was all very mysterious.
There is a certain air of immediacy when a loved one is diagnosed with PPD. You may feel helpless and confused, as I did. The person suffering from it directly will often feel the same way as the feelings are foreign to them as well. It is at this point that your role, whether as a husband, child or parent is vital. They require your understanding, patience and love. You have to try extra hard to be as helpful as you can with the new baby.
Many women will experience the ‘baby blues’ following childbirth, but those feelings should wane relatively quickly. They are a side effect of having your body flooded with hormones from pregnancy. Should they last longer, or be more severe, this could be a sign of PPD. It is important to remain as positive as possible. According to Mary Murry, nurse-midwife at the Mayo Clinic, “Don’t feel ashamed or guilty if you experience postpartum depression. Many factors contribute.” The bottom line is thus; they need our help dealing with a situation that is outside their control, not to mention frightening.
My story, thankfully, had a happy ending. When we first went to see the doctor concerning PPD, he chose to treat with a very low dose medicine. We combined that with a lot of patience and controlled the stimulation mom and baby received. I won’t lie to you and say it went away overnight, or even that it was easy to deal with. We stayed with it, and were rewarded for our efforts. A few months after being diagnosed, my wife was free from the effects of PPD.
It is not a long lasting condition. It may feel that way while you suffer its effects, but with proper treatment, it rights itself soon enough. The most important thing is to maintain a positive outlook and remember that, like everything else, ‘this too shall pass.’
Here a few tips which were helpful for me:
– Do things around the house that she may have normally done before. This may seem like a small thing, but helping with little household chores gives her one less thing to worry about.
– Give her ample time to rest, regardless of whether she thinks she needs it or not. Running to the store to grab a few items for dinner? Take the baby with you. This pays off more than you realize.
– Go to her doctor with her whenever she has an appointment. In the early stages, ensure her doctor knows your concerns about PPD (if he hasn’t already diagnosed her). Try to avoid talking about her like she isn’t in the room, if you are having the conversation in front of her.
– Reassure her that it isn’t her fault. Tell her it’s temporary, tell her that lots of women go through it, and most of all, make sure she understands that you love her. Simply telling her may not be enough; you have to show it.