It can be extremely hard to watch someone you care about struggle with postnatal depression. It is likely that you are confused by their behaviour, and sometimes even a bit hurt.
But it’s important for you to know that you are not helpless in this situation, there are a lot of things that you can do to help her.
The first thing you can do is learn as much about postnatal depression as you can. Having an understanding of what she is going through will help you to not only get where she is coming from, but will place you in a better position to help her.
Support is vital for women with postnatal depression.
- Offer to help around the house. Women with postnatal depression often feel overwhelmed, sad and drained of energy. Helping out around the house can lift a weight from her shoulders.
- Do the washing and ironing.
- Clean the kitchen/bathroom.
- Do the household chores.
- Make meals in bulk that she can grab quickly.
- Do the weekly shop.
- Helping out with the baby can also make a real difference: changing nappies, helping with feeding and bathing, and even minding the baby while she goes for a walk outside.
- If there are other older children, you could help out with them by making meals, driving them to appointments, assisting them with their homework, etc.
- Drive her to appointments or errands.
- Playing gatekeeper to visitors. Often people with the best intentions will drop in at all hours to visit the baby. This can be stressful. You could help by dealing with phone calls and unexpected visits.
- The best thing you can do in terms of emotional support is to listen to her. Don’t try to offer a bunch of solutions. Listen to her talk about how she’s feeling and what she’s thinking.
- Going with her to her medical appointments and listening to what both she and the doctor say, can also help to put you all on the same page.
- Let her know that you are there for her, whenever she needs. Even if she doesn’t feel like your help or company now, let her know that it is there when she does.
- Spend time with her, even if it is just holding her hand while she cries.
- Be patient. Postnatal depression is complex, and it won’t go away overnight. Be patient with her as she recovers.
- Tell her that you value and love her. Remind her of how special she is.
- Don’t criticise her body or make her feel unattractive.
- Phone her when you are at work on your lunch break, let her know that you’re there and are thinking about her.
- Encourage her to seek professional help from a doctor and a therapist.
Take care of yourself too
Caring for someone can take its toll, emotionally, mentally and physically. Make sure you take enough time for yourself. Talk to your friends and family, and keep up one hobby that you enjoy.
If you need help, enlist a friend or family member to take over some household chores, or to babysit. Alternatively, if you have the money, you could pay some cleaners to do a bit of cleaning once or twice a week.
Make time for self-care, because in order to help someone else, you have to be in a good place yourself.
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