This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on November 27th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine
Question: My sister had a baby two months ago and I am concerned she may have postpartum depression. She is very overwhelmed, angry and sad. She is very loving toward my niece and I don’t worry about her harming the baby but she seems beyond the “baby blues.” I’ve brought it up to her a couple of times and am met with defensiveness. I can’t help but worry and want to be there for her; just not sure how to best do that. Thanks.
Answer: It is great that your sister has a sister who is so caring, and is looking out for her. You are right to be concerned, because this is a change in her normal behavior, at a time when you would expect she would be joyful. New motherhood is full of emotions and being overwhelmed is a normal feeling. Becoming a parent for the first time is a life changing experience which makes going forward feel very intimidating. This can be so overwhelming. Hormonally, the body is readjusting to not being pregnant. Many new moms worry their bodies will never be the same. Most new parents don’t feel equipped for this great responsibility of child-raising, no matter how prepared they may have thought they were. There may also be other circumstances in her life or relationship, which may be contributing to feeling angry and sad. Recognizing this might help you understand.
Here are some of the symptoms of postpartum depression (these symptoms can be present in new dads, too):
–Depressed mood or mood swings
–Altered eating and sleeping
–Loss of interest in sex
Postpartum Depression that becomes a medical emergency:
–Unable to sleep
–Obsessive and fearful about the baby
–Refusing to eat
–Thought of harming self or baby
We cannot force people to get help unless they have the potential to harm themselves or someone else. As best as you can; continue to be there for her. Support her as she gains more skill in providing for her child’s needs. Reach out to those in her circle who might also be able to support her with love and patience. Don’t allow her to push you and others away, even when she is irritable and angry, which means not taking offense or walking out. When possible, take the baby and give her time to take care of herself, by napping, bathing, or going for a run. Helping to connect her to other new moms could prove very helpful in just realizing she is not the only one struggling. Lastly, as with most problems, don’t try to fix it, JUST LISTEN, and if she doesn’t want to talk, then just be there. This is real sister time, I wish you the best in your efforts to help.
Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”