6 Things You Can Do When You Recognize PPD in a Loved One

6 Things You Can Do When You Recognize PPD in a Loved One

When you recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in a friend or loved one, you might not know what to do. You might feel like it’s not your business. You might not want to upset her more. You might feel like it’s someone else’s job.

Or you might just save her life.

These six simple things can help you help someone you love.

Ask Her

It’s not fun to sit down with someone you love and ask, “Are you feeling depressed?” Those dealing with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders often go through six stages of dealing with it, and the first few are denial and anger.

So prepare yourself for a little bit of “NUH UH” and a little bit of “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.”

It’s okay. That’s the mood disorder talking, not your friend. Print out the New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help and take it with you. If she kicks you out, just leave it on the table. If she’s receptive to your message, go over the checklist with her.

The truth is, most new moms (and even seasoned moms) don’t recognize all the different symptoms of postpartum depression. They don’t often know about postpartum anxiety, OCD, bipolar, or any of the cousin mood disorders that can occur in that first year postpartum.

If she gets mad, she’ll get over it in time. But if no one else in her life is talking to her about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, someone needs to do so.

Offer Help

And don’t just offer blankly. “If you need any help, call me.” She’s not going to call you. Asking for help while dealing with postpartum depression feels almost impossible.

Instead, offer tangible things. Offer to come help her catch up on laundry, including the folding part. Offer to bring meals for a week or start a food train. Offer to research local postpartum depression support groups to see if any might feel like a good fit for her.

Offer Real Support

Different than offering help, offering support means attending her doctor or therapist appointments with her, if only to sit in the waiting room. Offering to babysit while she’s attending these appointments. Sit and listen while she talks through the scary thoughts in her head; do so without judgment.

Encourage Her

Many moms experiencing postpartum depression feel like they’re not “good enough” or that they’re “failing at being a mom.” They’re not. Their brains just can’t find the positive in their parenting just yet.

When you see her taking care of her child, compliment the way she does something. And mean it. It’s hard to mother when you are in the depths of PPD. Whether she’s still breastfeeding or bottle feeding, tell her you’re proud of her. Tell her she’s doing a great job. She is. Parenting through the haze of PPD is hard.

Help Her Employ Self-Care

Self-care remains one of the hardest things for moms—in general—to incorporate into their daily life. For a mom experiencing a PMAD, it can feel impossible.

Ask her what self-care looks and feels like for her. If it’s taking a walk, go for a walk with her. If it’s yoga, either go to class with her or offer to watch the baby while she gets her om on. If it’s coloring, bring her some new, fun coloring books.

And remind her, a lot, that not only is it okay to take time for yourself, it’s absolutely necessary for her recovery.

Repeatedly Tell Her She’s Not Alone

Whether you experienced a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder yourself or not, you can let your loved one know she’s not alone. You can point her to the hundreds upon hundreds of Warrior Mom stories here on our site. You can send her to our Facebook page which is teeming with moms who are in all stages of recovery and just want to connect with other moms. You can let her know about our private forum where she can talk more in depth about her experience.

Remind her that 1 in 7 moms experience postpartum depression. That it’s not her fault. That she didn’t “do” anything to get it. That postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. And that she’s never, ever alone.

PPD can feel so very isolating, so a constant reminder that other mothers with PMADs exist—and that they want to help—can feel like a light in the dark.

And of course, let her know she has you. Whoever you are in her life, you recognized that she needed help, needed support, needed encouragement. You matter in her story. Thank you for being there for her.

Dealing with Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post covers a topic near and dear to every mom’s heart: Dealing with postpartum sleep deprivation. Know that you’re not alone in your exhausted state of being. We’re here for you. -Jenna]

Dealing with Postpartum Sleep Deprivation

New parents often neglect their own needs. While this may seem like normal behavior from concerned parents, neglecting themselves puts their health at risk. In the long run, it can have an adverse effect on both partners but is especially taxing on a mother. It affects her ability to take proper care of her child.

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common post-birth side effects as well as one of the most damaging. While you may think it’s alright to neglect your sleep, even a small period of sleep loss can have long lasting effects.

Firstly, a good few hours of sleep are essential for your body to cope with all the stress it has been exposed to. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when our brains process the days events as well as sorting through memories. If we don’t have adequate REM sleep, it can lead to memory lapses as well as making tasks that require cognitive abilities much more challenging. For a mother, with a newborn baby to take care off, this could make even the smallest of tasks like changing a diaper challenging.

More serious side effects of sleep deprivation include severe depression. Women who had already been affected by anxiety and depression are more on the radar of damage. This leads to serious problems with mothers unsure of how to handle their babies. 

It is harder on the mother as she is already coping with extreme change, and her changing hormones are a major reason for her discomfort.

A mother is also often a baby’s only source of nutrition which makes her sleeping schedule a top priority. A lack of sleep can affect the quantity of milk that is being produced. There are a number of ways to find out the quantity of milk you should be producing; this should serve as a rough guide to tell you if sleep deprivation is the cause.

Studies have shown that on an average, a new mother gets at least two hours less sleep than she needs. The most shocking part? It is segmented, meaning she will not get a continuous sleep. This is because a newborn has no set circadian rhythms. They need roughly 16 hours sleep, but it usually comes in short spurts with a maximum of three to four hours at a time.

Bearing all this in mind, it’s important to ensure you get as much sleep as possible. A few tips to help you get enough sleep include.

Setting Your Priorities

During the first couple of months, it’s completely acceptable to take time off for yourself. You don’t need to feel guilty about putting your needs first. If there is work to do around the house, don’t feel the need to pitch in. It’s okay to depend on friends or family to get the work done. It’s also okay to let the laundry sit for another day if you get a chance to catch up on sleep.

Communicate

One of the biggest reasons a mother struggles to get adequate sleep is she doesn’t communicate her needs to her partner and family. It’s always a good idea to work out a schedule and try and ensure one partner is resting while the other is with the baby.

Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps

While this is a cliche and doesn’t work for all moms and family circumstances, it can be truly beneficial to some. The moment your baby falls asleep is when you should be sleeping, too. Don’t be tempted to do the dishes or vacuum. See above about setting those priorities. Make sleep a priority.

Patience Is The Key

While it may seem like an eternity, you will start having a more relaxed, enjoyable experience with more sleep as your baby’s sleeping patterns develop. It will happen.

Ask For Help

You should not feel guilty or hesitant about seeking help. Whether it’s to help deal with postpartum depression, a lack of sleep, or even the daily chores, seeking help will ensure that you are never over-stretched.

There are also a number of natural remedies available. Several teas like chamomile and oils like lemongrass are known as natural sedatives. Meditation techniques are also extremely useful in ensuring you get a good nights sleep. 

Recognize It May Be a Sign of a Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder

While all parents experience some form of sleeplessness, prolonged insomnia despite exhaustion is one of the many symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and the other postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. If you’re doing all you’re supposed to do, including asking for help, trying to get sleep when the baby sleeps, and prioritizing sleep, you may need to look at the other symptoms of postpartum depression to see if something bigger is happening.

If so, don’t worry: You can get help. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable. You can and will sleep again; you can and will feel whole again.

As a new parent, it is easy to feel overwhelmed at the task at hand especially when you are always tired. It’s important to focus on the bigger picture. You will eventually return to days when you have a good night’s rest.

 

Aradhana is a writer from India. She covers topics concerning parenting, child nutrition, wellness, health and lifestyle. She has more than 250 publications from reputable sites like Huffington Post, Natural news, Elephant Journal, Lifehacker and MomJunction.com to her credit. Aradhana writes to inspire and motivate people to adopt healthy habits and live a stress­-free lifestyle.

How My Totally Wrecked Birth Plan Nearly Wrecked Me

[Editor’s Note: Some parts of this guest post by a brave Warrior Mom may feel triggering for those with difficult birth or intrusive thoughts. It’s important to share stories like this one because they show you CAN get better. -Jenna]

How a Wrecked Birth Plan Nearly Wrecked Me

I had a uneventful pregnancy and birth experience with my first child—born at home in a birth pool after approximately 3 hours of active labor. My recovery went quickly and we had a lot of supportive friends and family to help. I never considered my second would be any different.

Around 37 weeks I started to feel sick, tired and stuffy-achey. My son had a cold, and I chalked it up to that. I let my midwife know and she encouraged me to rest, use a neti pot, drink plenty of water.

One afternoon my head hurt so badly I felt nauseated. I vaguely remembered something about headaches being related to blood pressure. I took my blood pressure with a home cuff and it was 154 over 92; I remember the numbers exactly. That scared me, especially since mine tends to be low (100’s/60’s) in pregnancy.

I lay in bed for a bit and waited, then took my BP again. It was normal. I took a nap and when I woke up I felt slightly better.

The Friday I was 37 weeks, 5 days, I took my son in for a Well Child visit and the nurse took one look at me and insisted on taking my blood pressure. It was high again. She asked permission to take a urine sample to check for protein and I agreed.

I was spilling protein. She wouldn’t let me leave until I called my midwife and set up bloodwork. Luckily my husband was with me. He drove me straight to the lab, and I went home and laid in bed per my midwife’s instructions while we waited on results.

I had preeclampsia. After four days of repeated labs, one trip to the hospital for monitoring, hours of lying on the couch and countless tears, I agreed to be induced. I picked the “crunchiest” hospital in the state and had cervidil placed at 10:00 AM when I was 38 weeks, 3 days. My baby was born around 8:30 PM after one hour of active labor.

The actual labor and delivery was easy. But the placenta wouldn’t come out.

Things suddenly got hectic.

I could feel blood pooling around my lower body and a team rushed in with some machines. My midwife leaned down next to my face and very seriously said to me, “You are retaining the placenta. You are hemorrhaging. We have an ultrasound machine here and we can do the ultrasound and try to remove the remaining pieces manually, or you can go directly to the ER and have a D&C, but you will have to consent to a potential hysterectomy before we can do that.”

I wanted to stay with my baby, and get started breastfeeding. I chose the manual extraction, which in retrospect was a poor decision. It was excruciatingly painful. I wasn’t able to breastfeed because I couldn’t sit up without passing out, and my baby not only had a tongue tie, but was unable to coordinate her suck/swallow reflex, which is common in preterm infants.

They also didn’t get all of the placenta, so I had to have a D&C when she was six weeks old anyway.

I remember the moment I felt a dark cloud settle over me. After they got me stabilized, it was just me, my husband, baby, and my nurse. It was about midnight and they had turned the lights down. I was freezing and shaking despite the pile of warm blankets. My IV was starting to really sting. I could feel cold sticky blood covering the entire backside of my body, from my calves up to my shoulders.

I felt like I was going to pass out at any moment. I was too weak to hold my baby, and I didn’t recognize her. She didn’t look anything like my son did when he was born, nothing like what I expected. I didn’t feel a sense of awe or amazement when I looked at her. I felt nothing. She was so tiny and bald.

I couldn’t even feed her; she was getting donor milk.

My room had gorgeous wall to wall windows with views of the mountains and I could see stars twinkling outside, but all I could think about was how cold, harsh and snowy the world was out there. And how cold it was in my room, both physically and emotionally.

I felt robbed of my beautiful birth plan. I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. I couldn’t even hold my own baby, and no one, not even my husband, understood what had just happened or how I was feeling. No one asked.

I was in the hospital for three days. I had lost two liters of blood. Nursing did not go well. I was feeding, pumping, then feeding donor milk every three hours. I was exhausted and still unable to sit upright. I was haunted with the repeating refrain, “You almost died. Your baby could have died.”

We learned later she had IUGR and my placenta had started failing weeks earlier. I felt guilty for not knowing my baby was struggling in there, for not going in to the hospital as soon as I had that first excruciating headache. My husband, as kind and supportive and loving as he is, seemed clueless as to the seriousness of the situation.

Still no one talked to me about the birth or how scared I felt. I so wish hospitals sent mental health professionals to speak with new moms, especially after a birth like that.

We went home and had very little support. The scary birth story made people uncomfortable when I told it. I could tell in their eyes and by the way they awkwardly said “I’m sorry” and changed the subject. My father-in-law reminded me as I was lying on the couch the day I got home from the hospital that “back in the day, women just squatted down and had babies in fields and went right back to work.” I reminded him that back in the day, both baby and I would have died.

I was still very weak and got winded and lightheaded just going up the six stairs in our tri-level to the bathroom or our bedroom. I was still triple feeding every three hours. Almost no one brought us food or offered to help with anything.

The mother of a school friend of my toddler son came and took him for a few hours to the park one day to play. I barely knew her and she was one of the three people that reached out. A friend brought us Chinese takeout one night. A guy I knew through our homeowners’ association brought us a home-cooked meal. I am forever grateful to those people, and I will be forever bitter at the “friends” who did nothing for us during that time, despite knowing how awful the birth had been. It changed my perspective on friendship for sure.

Breastfeeding was so painful. My son had also had a tongue-lip tie that we didn’t catch until he was 18 months old, and I had hated breastfeeding with him. Not wanting to go through that again, we had my daughter’s revised with laser at four weeks. I felt guilty for doing it. I had my husband stay and hold her while I sat in the waiting room and cried.

She developed reflux and “colic” and lost weight. She screamed all day and all night. I was working from home at the time and carried her in a wrap most of the day. I couldn’t take client phone calls, and when I did, more than once they got an earful of screaming as she suddenly woke, strapped to my chest.

She was up every hour or two all night long, and because I was still breastfeeding, so was I. I did an elimination diet and ate chicken, rice, and apples for a month. I had extensive allergy and food intolerance testing done, hoping I could figure out what, in my breastmilk, was making her so miserable.

We tried numerous reflux medications with marginal improvement. I finally gave up and put her on hypoallergenic formula at nine months. She was instantly happier.

Then I fell apart.

I became angry. The guilt I was carrying about so many things came out as rage. At her, at everyone. I was mad at the universe. I was mad at my husband. I was mad at our unsupportive friends.

None of this was what I had planned or envisioned. None of this was like my first birth and child.

I couldn’t sleep. The tiniest noise would make me jolt awake, heart racing, hoping I could make it to her in time to just pat her back and get her back to sleep before the full blown screaming fit forced me to stay up walking and patting her around the house for hours.

Despite the formula, she was still a terrible sleeper. We had to carry her around in an Ergo for an hour or more every night until she was deeply asleep. One night when she had been screaming at bedtime for several hours, I thought about throwing her across the room.

I told my therapist, one I fortunately had lined up for regular appointments when I started having nightmares and flashbacks soon after the birth. She encouraged me to call my psychiatrist, who I hadn’t seen since early in my pregnancy (to make a plan to prevent PPA/PPD this time, since I also had it with my first).

Luckily, I already had one. I had so many risk factors: a history of postpartum psychosis and alcoholism on one side of the family, a likely history of (undiagnosed, unknown) mental illness on the other side. My Fitbit says I was averaging between 2-3 hours of sleep at that point.

Because I already had a relationship with a psychiatrist, I was able to get in and get on meds (three of them!) very quickly. The first thing he said was, “you can’t get up at night with the baby anymore.”

Luckily my husband is amazing and took over the night times. I sort of felt it was only fair, after my doing it alone for nine months. She’s 18 months old now and her reflux went away completely around a year. She’s a hilarious and feisty toddler. She’s still extremely loud and vocal.

Thanks to medication and earplugs, I started sleeping again. My anxiety went away. The fog of depression lifted. I started seeing beauty around me again, in the mountains and trees and in my kids. I’m off all but one of the medications and am slowly tapering off of it as well.

Recovery is possible even in the worst cases. I thought about hurting my baby, and that memory is still painful and sickening. I felt like no one understood. I felt like my baby was a stranger.

I felt so, so alone. You’re not alone. There are thousands, millions of women out here who have gone through what you have. Speak up. Needing help doesn’t make you weak or a bad parent. It makes you strong enough to ask for what’s best for your family.

We are’t just strong, we are warriors. And we are here for you.

~Kara M

Not Today: My Catalyst in Healing from PPD

Not Today: The Catalyst In My Healing from PPD
The show Game of Thrones had not yet released the episodes, but when I started watching the year after I gave birth, there was one scene that stuck with me. Arya is learning the fine art of elegant sword fighting. She is hesitant and clumsy on her feet. Her instructor, Syrio, crossed wooden blades with her. 

“There is only one God, and his name is Death,” he continued, “and what do we say to the God of Death?” 

Arya shook her head, still clutching her training sword. Syrio smiled and stepped back from her, “Not today.”

Not today.

I was sitting on the steps just outside my baby’s room. She was wailing, because she was in her crib and not on my body which was the only place she would sleep—but this also meant I literally got no sleep. I had been sleeping on the couch downstairs for weeks, my husband upstairs where he had atleast a hope of getting some sleep before going to work the next day. 

I sat on that step and sobbed. I grabbed at my hair, throbbed my head against the wall. 

My husband slowly climbed the stairs and stood before me. “What is wrong,” he asked. He didn’t know what to do with me, and he was going through his own postpartum issues himself. 

“I want to die. I want to go away. I want to pretend this never happened. I made a mistake, and I’m being punished for it. I want to kill myself,” I gasped out between hyperventilating gasps for air. 

My husband did not come and sit next to me; he didn’t place a hand on my head. He stood there, tears starting to fall from his own eyes. “I do, too,” he softly replied.
That right there—that was my moment. One of us has to be sane. One of us has to buck up and go through the motions of being a parent, and if my husband was not yet ready to be up for the task, then I would. 

I had no idea what to do. But I knew what I was saying to my postpartum depression, my ptsd, my suicidal thoughts: “Not today.”

I did the first thing I could think of that I do well. I organized; the house, my emotions, my daily routine. It all needed be sorted so that when the light broke through those windows and me, eyes wired open on the couch, clutching a baby who would be quiet for an hour at a time, I knew what I was going to do next.

I was not going to stay on that couch, put her on her playmat on the floor, and watch her like she was sort of strange animal at the zoo. We were going to get up, she was going in that swing while I made her a bottle and myself some breakfast. Eating. Let’s try eating, shall we?

It was simple things like that. I would put her in her bouncy seat and place it in the bathroom while I took a quick shower. I got dressed. I put on a bra. I brushed my hair. This was the beginning of something that my brain could process. 

It felt awkward at first, and robotic. But, after so many days of doing it, I started to naturally know what to do. I would hold my baby, even if she didn’t need anything. I would rock her to sleep and look at her small, pinched up face and my heart started to unwrap itself from the plastic wrap that had been around it since the birth. I would talk to her. 

I would tell her where we would go that day; leaving the house was important to me. I would take my adorable, well-dressed baby into any store I could get to. Little old ladies would swarm around the stroller and coo at her. They would tell me she was darling, perfect, so well behaved. She would smile at these strangers. I saw a personality emerge to take the place of the tyrannical screaming that would happen at night.

My friend sent me a book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, and  it was literally the only useful baby book I had been given. It talked about how to start a daily routine for your baby so that they would actually nap and want to eat on a schedule, not just when they wanted to. The structure of the day was based around the word E.A.S.Y. So, all day you would follow this schedule for you and the baby. Eat, Activity, Sleep, You Time. The order of the things absolutely clicked with my child. I had not been doing scheduled activity like that, let alone at an opportune time to wear them down. It worked. She felt better. I felt better.

Once I felt more in control of the situation, I started to work on my husband. He hardly included himself in any baby activities. He was afraid and had some father hangups. I started small. I gave him one part of the routine during the day that was seemingly important but also hard to mess up. I gave him bath time. 

Every night he would come home from work, eat dinner, and I would hand our baby to him. They would go upstairs and I wouldn’t even think about it. I didn’t stress about him using the right tempurature water, the right shampoo and soap. I gave up the control to him, for him to interrupt bath time as however he wanted to. As long as the child was clean, that’s great. 

Once he mastered bath time, he asked for bed time as well. I happily gave that over to him. In that surrender, I was able to go Toth  sleep before my baby, which meant I had a higher change of getting at least three or four hours of sleep before she would wake up for the first time.

These responsibilities have not changed. He is still in charge of bath and bed. He will never give them up because, for him, that was his “not today” moment.

When your family is in crisis mode for something this demolishing, you can’t do anything with therapy or medication until you get your family well first. Once we all fell into our routine, the resentment and distance passed. Parenting because a thing we did.

With that structure reinforced, when I knew that leaving him alone with the baby would not be a danger to him or the baby, when I finally realized that this is my baby, I grew her, and I loved her when she was in me, I was able to pick up the phone and make the appointments that needed to be made to then get my emotions leveled out. Only then did I feel like a mother. Only then did I feel that I had done something great for my little family. 

Giving birth to our first child was not enough. It felt like the end of the world, but by looking all of my emotional hangups in the face and telling them, “not today,” I was able to slowly banish the thoughts and begin feeling like a real mother who deserved to get help.