Postpartum depression: what your loved ones need to know


“The most ordinary conversation with my husband may end up crying and cannot stop. He is not able to understand me … I hear only accusations and reproaches. ” Postpartum depression isn’t just fatigue, it’s a type of depressive disorder. In depression, a person feels unnecessary, rejected, disconnected from the world. And it is even more difficult for a young mother – she is responsible not only for herself, but also for the little man who just came into this world.

What’s happening?

The reality is that one in ten women after childbirth becomes depressed. Think about it: every tenth! And only 15% of them seek help from specialists.

Most hide their suffering, pretend that everything is under control – drowning in a sense of guilt and fear of not coping, of being “unworthy” of their mission. And you can’t say that this fear is groundless … The child does not receive the emotional response he needs so much, and the mother simply cannot give it. She gets tired of communicating with the baby, irritated by his screams. She is angry at both the child and her own helplessness.

In such a situation, a woman needs someone to understand her, share her feelings, give her support.

“It makes me shiver when I hear my baby crying … Sometimes I just don’t want to take him in my arms … I feel like I can’t be a good mother” – this is the client’s real complaint. A young mother is in despair: she cannot control the disturbing thoughts that overwhelm her, loses sleep, appetite and even the will to live. The circle closes: the less she eats and sleeps, the more place in her life is occupied by anxiety and powerlessness.

Husband, mother, mother-in-law and girlfriends who passed the baptism of fire as motherhood sound the alarm. “You need to eat more! Your milk is low! You’re dressing him the wrong way! ” – endless advice and guidance pours out of the bucket. All this bustle of everyday life only increases stress and guilt.

The only thing a young mother wants is for everyone to leave her alone. But really, in such a situation, a woman needs someone to understand her, share her feelings, give her support.

Postpartum depression: what your loved ones need to know

How does it work?

It is difficult to find one reason why postpartum depression occurs. Hormonal surges, irregularities, stress, hereditary predisposition can all play a role.

The very appearance of a child changes the way of life and relationships in the family: in addition to marital, the couple has new roles: parenting. Very often, the husband becomes the main breadwinner and can go to work with his head, which means – spend less time with his family. The woman, however, is almost entirely at the mercy of the mother’s role.

Relationships between spouses are changing. The child comes first: his needs are served first. He is put to sleep in a shared bed, and his father often moves to sleep in another room (if possible), sometimes for long months.

Communication becomes poorer: all topics revolve around the child, and fatigue dulls feelings. Family boundaries are becoming more open to relatives on both sides. Young parents constantly hear advice, recommendations and instructions on how to swaddle, feed, educate, what can and cannot be done.

What used to be pleasing and enjoyable may seem devoid of all meaning

Finally, the daily routine in the first days of a child’s life is scheduled by the hour. Hygienic procedures, rhythmic alternations of sleep and feeding, walking, bathing … Such a clear regime is useful for a child, it gives a feeling of stability and predictability. But for a mother, such a life may seem like an endless and hopeless “groundhog day.”

Depression prevents a woman from accessing her best self. It happens that she does not recognize herself, she feels that someone else lives in her body. Her character may change, unusual difficulties may appear in the most ordinary affairs, unexpected emotions and thoughts may visit her. A missed phone call or a kefir forgotten in a store can cause tears.

What used to be joyful and enjoyable may seem devoid of any sense.

How to help?

First of all, to be close. The nature of depression is such that it alienates a person from their loved ones. This is her most insidious trait.

In psychotherapy, it is important to help clients use the energy of resistance, to take an active position.

Perhaps now the situation seems like a nightmare, but you can look at it differently – as an exciting adventure, a fight with an alien, an evil sorcerer or a dangerous virus that is trying to take over the mind of a loved one.

Postpartum depression: what your loved ones need to know

Tips for loved ones

Unravel the invader’s “strategy”. Think of the frog that did not have time to jump out of the pot on the fire and cooked. How to prevent depression from catching you off guard?

Make it a rule to measure the “temperature” in the family. Talk to a young mother, ask about her feelings, note warning signs – tiredness, confusion, irritation, long sadness and prostration. Watch yourself too. Feeling fear, anxiety, irritation for no apparent reason? Try to distance yourself from your experiences and analyze them. Assess the situation as soberly as possible. Don’t panic, but don’t be fooled either.

Leverage resources. Forget the words “pull yourself together”, “do not limp”, “remember that you are a mother.” A depressed woman has no strength – she needs help around the house, with cooking and a baby. She needs time to just be alone with herself and do what she wants, without pressure and control.

Finally, she needs emotional support. To begin with, try to “unload” her: find someone with whom you can leave the child, take on some household chores, ask relatives and friends not to bother her.

Most importantly, create an atmosphere of unconditional love and acceptance. Morals, lectures and reproaches – no. Sincere conversations, long hugs, small gifts made with a soul – yes. Remember, experiencing emotions together amplifies them.

Tackling depression together will strengthen your union and be a valuable experience.

Find your “Gandalf”. In fairy tales and fantasy films, the heroes are often saved by the intervention of a kind and strong magician, when it seems that there is no way out. With postpartum depression, it happens the same: sometimes it manifests itself so strongly that you cannot do without a specialist.

Do not be afraid to seek the help of a psychotherapist who can advise you and, if necessary, select the necessary medications. But choose a specialist carefully: study his regalia, see reviews.

Please be patient. How long the release will take depends on many factors (including how correctly the medication is selected). On average, the “assault” period takes from a month to six months. Relief comes earlier, and it is important to notice changes here.

Rejoice in your successes like the first warm days after a harsh winter. You may need to look for green shoots where the carpet used to be. But it is from them that a new blooming garden will grow over time.

A sunbeam, a pleasant melody, a cup of delicious tea are a source of endorphins you and your spouse need. Over time, your feelings – joy, delight, rapture, interest – will become deeper and stronger. Tackling depression together will strengthen your union and be a rewarding experience.

Asel Muzafarova

About the expert

Asel Muzafarova – psychologist at the Center for Family and Childhood Support, family psychotherapist, business coach, emotional intelligence specialist.

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