Postnatal depression: how you can help a loved one

Postnatal depression is relatively common and can happen pretty much any time after having a baby. If you know a new parent here are some signs to look out for and tips on how you can help. 

Around one in seven women who give birth in Australia suffer from postnatal depression. And in fact, one in ten women experience depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression), and this can continue after birth.

So, if you think your friend isn't coping, here are some signs to look out for and ways to help.

Dawn shares her story with PND:

Signs of postnatal depression to look for

According to Terri Smith, CEO at Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), signs of postnatal depression can include:
  • Panic attacks.
  • Persistent, generalised worry.
  • Development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours.
  • Abrupt mood swings.
  • Feeling constantly tired.
  • Withdrawing from friends.
  • Difficulty focusing.
  • Feeling constantly sad or crying for no reason.
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide.
"We’re also finding that anxiety is just as common as depression and many parents experience both anxiety and depression at the same time. It is important to know that if symptoms persist for more than two weeks it is time to seek help."

As a friend, you may notice that the new mum is reluctant to see other people. If possible, speak to their partner or family member about your concerns. 

How you can help

If you are worried about someone close to you, you can: 

  • Gently ask if they are able or willing to talk to you about how they are feeling.  
  • Reassure them that they are not alone and that there are things that can be done to help. 
  • Suggest that they speak to their GP or another health professional.

Practical ways to help

Broccoli tart

Sometimes it can be difficult to ask for help. Even if the person you are concerned about hasn't admitted to, or been diagnosed with postnatal depression, giving new parents help and support during those first 1000 days can be invaluable. 

  • Visit your friend and do something practical while you talk like doing the washing up, bringing in clothes or hanging out washing.
  • If they have another older child, offer to take the child out for a few hours, or offer to help with the school run. 
  • Meals are always welcome when there's a new baby in the house. Easy to eat (particularly with one hand), freezable and healthy food is ideal. 
  • A mum who is suffering from postnatal depression may be reluctant to leave their child with others, for fear others may think they're not 'coping'. However, offering to hold the baby or take them for a walk while the mum has a rest, walk, or even a cup of tea in peace can be a small, but very helpful, gesture.

If you think that somebody you know is suffering from postnatal depression, it's important that they get help as soon as possible. Speak to their partner or family member, or offer to accompany them to a GP appointment. 

Bupa mummatters

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