Monday, 11 September 2017 21:28

Does your friend have postnatal depression?

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How to tell and how you can support her

So, your best friend has had a baby and rather than appearing over the moon with her little bundle of joy, you can't help but feel like she's struggling. She seems 'down', maybe she has lost interest in things she previously loved doing. Perhaps she's weepy, tense, sleeping badly or lacking confidence. Is she suffering from the 'baby blues', or could it be something more sinister?

Many mothers experience a significant drop in mood three or four days post-partum. This is usually attributed to hormonal changes after giving birth and as lactation begins. It is generally short-lived and is not usually cause for serious concern. Postnatal depression, on the other hand, may also appear around this time (or at any time during the first year after giving birth) and can last significantly longer.

The main symptoms may include:

  • Sadness and low mood

  • Lack of energy (feeling 'tired all the time') or difficulty sleeping

  • Difficulty bonding with the baby and emotional withdrawal from family/friends

  • Problems with concentration

  • Distressing thoughts

Your friend may not realise what is happening as depression can develop graduallly – but as an outsider you are ideally placed to spot the signs and offer her a lifeline.

How can you help?

Acknowledge your friend's feelings. Make sure to reassure your friend that her feelings are valid and common. Her condition is treatable and she can get better. Depression is an illness just like any other and there ought to be no guilt or shame attached.


Encourage your friend to see a medical professional. A recent report by the National Childbirth Trust suggests that 50% of mothers experience mental health difficulties during pregnancy or in the year following their child's birth. A further half of those don't receive the assistance they need, largely due to guilt, ignoring their own needs and even fear that their children will be taken away.

Assure her that it's okay to need help, that it doesn't mean she's failing. Her doctor may refer her to a local support group, recommend cognitive-behavioural therapy or prescribe a course of antidepressants. All of these things can be helpful. If she's anxious about attending appointments with or without the baby, can you spare the time to go with her? If not, the promise of a phone call later in the day may be enough to spur her on to attend.

The main thing you can do for your friend is be there. New parenthood can be isolating and this isolation only serves to exacerbate depression in a self-perpetuating spiral. Visit. Call. Send a card. Many new mothers are exhausted by night-time waking and struggle with day-to-day tasks, even without the added burden of PND. If you can spare the time, why not offer to look after the baby for an hour or two so she can do the simple things we so often take for granted? A short nap, a shower or space to take care of a few essential household jobs could help give her the breathing room to start her recovery.

Recovering from postnatal depression, like any other mental health issue, can take time. Just let her know you'll support her through the difficult patches and be there for as long as it takes.

Read 763 times Last modified on Monday, 11 September 2017 21:32