How Do You Tell A Pregnant Friend About Postpartum Depression?

talking about postpartum depressionI’ve been excitedly waiting for news that my best friend from high school has finally become a daddy. I’ve trolled his and his wife’s Facebook page for the last two weeks.

But that baby is hanging in for more ice cream and cookies.

The other day, his wife had sent a group message to all of her friends.

Mommas, looking for advice on the whole delivery thing and what to expect afterwards…NOT looking for any horror stories or ANY gross details. I’m well aware of what to expect and have fully blocked it from my mind and refuse to listen to any dirty details….

What I’m looking for is advice on the best thing you did while in the hospital and the days following. Or even what your partner did. Only happy positive comments please.

:::RECORD SCRATCH:::

I get it.

No new mother wants to hear about the bad parts of labour or the days following.

But what about the “P” word?

I immediately wanted to tell her everything about postpartum depression because I turned a blind eye whenever I came across something related to it. I was a happy pregnant Mom, had a wonderful husband, and a great job.

I thought that it would never, EVER happen to me.

But it did.

And I sure as hell had wished that someone, anyone would have told me about postpartum depression no matter how much I would have hated to hear it.

I didn’t answer her message for a while. I followed the thread. Everyone said things like bring cute outfits for the baby, take lots of pictures because they grow so fast, snuggle with them, and other positive things just like she had asked for.

I started to write and stopped and deleted my responses over and over.

And then I just went for it.

I told her that I had postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and I gave her a smidge of information that wouldn’t scare her to death.

Her answer:

Kim, sweets, I had no idea. I’m so incredibly sorry that you had gone through that, but I assure you I’m totally fine. We are fine. Don’t worry about us. Really we are fine. This is going to be a wonderful experience. We can’t wait.

Did it really click?

I don’t know.

Actually, I don’t really think so.

I didn’t know what else to say beyond that.

I simply responded

I bet that you are excited. We are really excited for you and we hope that you have an amazing experience. Know that I’m always here 😉

Seriously.

I write a blog that chronicles my entire postpartum experience. I share all the good, the bad, and the really bad, but here I had an opportunity to really educate a new pregnant mom.

But I kept thinking, “She’s so happy.”

And then I remembered how badly that I wished that someone had told me.

She’s still pregnant as of today.

And I still haven’t given her any more information.

I am honestly having a hard time with this.

Do you talk to your pregnant friends about postpartum depression? How do you approach the topic? If they brush you off, do you still pursue the issue?

~ Kimberly Morand, All Work & No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something

Photo credit: © Andy Dean – Fotolia.com

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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  1. This is a wonderful post. It is so hard to balance wanting to "save" someone from the misery we experienced with not wanting to scare or even trigger (yes, I worry that once I plant that seed, I might be the "cause" of someone's PPD…completely irrational, I know) any shade of a Post Partum Mood Disorder. This is where our collective awareness work comes to play. Maybe some day PPD will be as widely known and accepted condition as leaky boobs, painful first poops and utter exhaustion. There is such a stigma. Her response to me seemed, um, odd. Doth the lady protest too much? I wonder if she's already experienced some mood/emotional shifts and is already in the process of denial. Or maybe we're just grievously undereducated as a society that it comes across as THAT absurd that she might suffer a similar fate. Sigh. I feel your frustration.

    • It is so so SO hard.

      I don't want to scare her with my experience. But I also want her to know that it is a real illness and what she can do.

      I've been thinking that since I am closer to her husband, that perhaps I should tell him more about it…that I'd be more comfortable talking to him about it without scaring the bejeezus out of them.

      I really wish too that it was more talked about just like leaky boobs…etc.

  2. I have told many of my pregnant friends about PPD. I send an email or a private FB message. I start with something about hoping that what I'm about to say will never be of any need to them. Then I explain about my own experience with PPD/A. I don't belabor the awful details. I simply explain that I suffered (suffer) from it and a bit about my experience.

    The messages are usually very short. I want them to know that PP illnesses are real. I want them to know that I am available to call or messgae anytime with questions or concerns.

    I have always been thanked. I have occasionally been asked a few follow up questions.

    I feel that I would not be a good friend if I didn't share my experience with them. As a warrior, I am educating society about PPD/A (and all other illnesses on the PP spectrum)… one pregnant friend at a time.

    • Heidi, I like your approach!!

      • Me too! I should try harder at this… "one pregnant friend at a time" too! Thanks for writing about this, Kimberly! I'm sure most if not all survivors have felt similarly challenged when it comes to sharing our stories and giving info that we feel an expectant mom should know. I feel we all have to try harder so there will be fewer moms who get blind-sided like most if not all of us did.

    • I too believe that I must speak out to my friends about it. I only have one other friend who was pregnant and I made sure to tell her but she and I are a lot closer than this particular friend.

      I worry that I'll scare the crap out of her.

      But I do want her to know about it.

      I really like your approach!!

  3. I was lucky enough (if one could say it that way) that a close friend of mine suffered for PPD with her first and we had our babys (her second and my first) around the same time and she called and texted me (after my AWEFUL BIRTH) all the way from SA (me in Canada) to see if i was doing okay and share her PPD storey and when i didnt return her messages she was worried and after i told her i wasnt doing to well she suggested i might be suffering from PPD. I tried to fight it – my family and husband knowing me as a strong can fight off anything – thought i would just get over it, couldnt understand why i was not coping – and thought i would snap out of it. I didnt and subsequently went on medication after talking to my OB/GYN. (even though it was no a strong enough dose) I thank God everyday for my friend Debbie and her struggle – for without it i would hav suffered in silence and not gotten the help i needed (and still do) When friends of mine are expecting or have new babys i am sure to send them a message to tell them my storey and i seem to be getting better at sharing it with just about anyone. Although i have not been brave enough to blog it or put it as my FaceBook Status. I am hoping that one day i will find the courage to really put it out there. I wish more awareness of PPD was out there in prenatal classes though. As for your friend – i think the really sad part about it all is that if she does ever find herself at the end of the PPD stick – she might not turn to you – just because she is too proud to – and she doesnt want it to look like she failed. She really would miss out on a real blessing though. Thanks again for you blog and even just the simply replys you post on our comments. You are trully someone that cares and understands and someone i wish had been there to tell me about the PPD Demons. Much love and wishing you a great week (can you tell its a good day) 🙂

    • Excuse the typos – trying to put my mind down, while gulping down lunch and working 🙂

    • Ha…no worries about the typos Dee!

      Unbeknownst to me, my sister in law had postpartum depression. She never once told me about this when I was pregnant. When I started having symptoms, I reached out to her and she said "Oh my God. I had no idea. You looked so put together. I never would have imagined it!"…I really wished that she had told me about it. I was completely blind-sided. Sure it wasn't her fault…but I think about that when my friends become pregnant.

      I want to tell them so they know that it can happen to anyone. I just worry that it will scare them. How do I approach it? I find it so much easier to share my story on my blog.

      I'm glad that you had that friend to tell you about it.

      I too wish that there was more discussion about PPD.

  4. I like your idea of telling the hubby, who is your closer friend. That will at least make him aware. I just check in with my friends and share my story without judgment of their experiences. I also tell them that it is diff for each person and if you feel off, to just be aware and let someone know. I also refer people to this website so ppl can do their own research and see if anything resonates with them, if it does I encourage them to contact their GP first.

    • Yes, I do think it's important to tell them to go to their GP.

      I knew that when I started having symptoms I reached out to my doctors first and then my friends and family.

  5. I post blog updates to my personal Facebook and I have blogged about PPD/A. Indirectly I have told everyone I know.

    I have had 4 separate friends call or email asking for details beyond what I shared on my blog, confessing that they too are having a hard time.

    I have had a few friends who I approached directly, with information about my first birth, which was a csection. Things I wish I had known. I believe that my hospital experience contributed greatly to my PPD/A. Not everyone cares how their baby arrives, but I did. So when I have friends who are on their way to a csection and I know them well enough to know they might care I try to share my experience.

    • I think that is wonderful!

      I think that the birthing/hospital experience is a huge factor…but a lot of moms just don't want to hear it….kind of like the PPD.

      I'm glad that your friends were open enough to hear you out. I'm sure that it was a big help for them!!

  6. When I was pregnant I dismissed the idea of Postpartum Depression as irrelevant because I thought “It won’t happen to me. I love my life and I’m a cheerful person in general. My husband and I love each other and we are very happy together. We are so excited about the pregnancy and have been looking forward to it for a very long time. Postpartum Depression happens to women whose personality is already bent towards feelings of depression, who are already unhappy with their life or have a rocky marriage, or whose pregnancy is unwanted. Surely these women are bound to become depressed, but not me. It just doesn’t happen to ‘people like me’.”

    I loved being pregnant!—I loved everything about it. Well, maybe everything except for a few minor annoyances here and there, but, overall, you could say I had the picture-perfect pregnancy. I loved the feeling of Baby inside me; I loved the way my body looked; I felt absolutely wonderful, beautiful and happy! You know that “pregnancy glow”?—well I’m pretty sure I had it! I loved my baby so much, and I couldn’t wait to have him and hold him in my arms!

    But then the baby was born, and—BAM!!!—full blown Postpartum Depression the moment I set eyes on my precious little “bundle of joy”!!! And I now know—Postpartum Depression is a physical illness that shows absolutely no respect of persons—regardless of your personal disposition, condition of your marriage, social status, spirituality, or whatever else—it can happen to anyone!

    And I wish I had learned about it before hand! Now whenever I hear about anyone having a baby my first thoughts are “I wondering how she’s doing”—you know—emotionally…and wishing I could ask her and assure her that if she needs to she can come talk to me, because I know!!!

    • Exactly.

      I had no idea that this illness can hit whomever.

      I had the same thoughts as you too. I had no idea what had hit me.

      When my sister-inlaws sister had a baby, I had frequently asked how she was doing emotionally. I am sure it may have been annoying but I needed to make sure.

  7. I know how Emily feels. I had a c-section because my daughters head was literally stuck after 24 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing. I know it had to be done and that I really gave it my all but you still can't help but feel like you failed somehow. Linda's story sounds a lot like mine too. It almost seems like the more you want the baby the harder you get hit and the more overwhelmed you become once they are here. I am very open about my PPD because I want women to know that it is out there and more common than anyone knows. I didn't know about it and I felt extreme guilt thinking that I just didn't like being a mother and was scared of what I was feeling. I am constantly surprised at how many women tell me that they also had it, yet nobody talks about it so when you have a child you only know the picture that society and commercials for baby products put into your head.

    • It's awful isn't it. That's why we need to be more open about our experiences.

      I was shocked that my sister-in law had it and I will admit, that I was angry that she didn't tell me about it. Because when I got smacked in the face with PPD…it literally smacked me in the face.

      I had no idea what was going on.

  8. I thought PPD was something that happened within the first few days after birth, not something that could come at you for so long afterwards, nor the connection to weaning. I also didn't know that I was at greater risk because I'd experienced depression before and because I had gone through IVF. My OB didn't talk about it, the nurses didn't talk about it, my baby's pediatrician didn't talk about…so now that I'm through the worst of it I'm talking about it.

    With my friend who is pregnant and has also experienced depression in the past and has gone through IVF I was blunt and just kind of blurted out "you're a high risk for PPD" and then went on to share risk factors and what it's like. The person I really wanted to talk to was her husband, but I shouldn't imagine he'd be quite as receptive as she was! I've promised myself to visit her often after she has her baby and keep an eye on her.

    • I never even thought about the risk part.

      I was never evaluated for being at high risk. When I did the test, AFTER my diagnosis, I was at high risk all along.

      I should pass that along to her.

      I think that if I had that foresight, I would have been better prepared.

  9. I can so relate to this. I've had a few friends/family members expecting lately, and I've always wanted to let them know that though it's unlikely, it can happen, and I'm here for support if it does happen to them…but I never do. My husband (braver than me) warned his sister about the possibility, but she told him it wouldn't be an issue for her, and that she is really good at bonding so she wouldn't have any trouble bonding with her baby. That just made me feel bad, like she thought she was better than me and that it was somehow my fault or something (Oh, I'm not like her, that won't be a problem for me). It's not like I thought I would get PPD/PPA, I thought everything would be great. So I pretty much keep my mouth shut. People know I've gone through this, and if they want to come to me, I am here. I don't keep it a secret, and some people have asked me questions about it, which I love, because it is so misunderstood. I just wish more people were educated about it.

  10. That's how my friend was…just like me…"It won't happen to me…I have a wonderful life…yadda yadda" and then I did get it.

    That's why I want to make her understand that this illness can affect anyone. It doesn't matter. But at the same time I don't want to scare her.

    It's reallly hard.

    I hope though that she knows that if anything happens, she can always ALWAYS come to me.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this story. For awhile, I was telling all my pregnant friends about how hard it can be, especially if you end up getting PPD. Most of them just gave me a pat on the back and assured me that they would be alright, just like your friend. I guess I can't really blame them – if you haven't experienced it, you have no idea how it can hit you. Now, I just tell my friends, "Call me if you need someone to cry with! I really mean it." So far no one has taken me up on the offer. One friend did tell me afterwards "How come no one tells you HOW HARD it will be before you have the baby?" I told her, "Trust me, sweetie. I tried to tell you, but you didn't hear me." People will only hear what they want to hear. But at least if we say something, then hopefully they will know they can come to us for support if they end up having a hard time.

  12. I think you handled it well, and the important part is letting her know that that was your experience. If she does have difficulties, she'll probably think to talk to you about it.

    I actually did know that I was at a high risk for PPD, having suffered depression in the past, and was watching for signs of depression. I still didn't realize for 7 months that I had PPD, because I had totally different symptoms from my past depression.

  13. This is truly difficult. I had my baby nearly two months ago and I decided to tell some of my friends who aren't pregnant yet but want to within the next few years about it. I tried to just keep the details basic unless they wanted specific information. But I got the sense I freaked some of them out from even just saying bonding isn't necessarily instantaneous and whatever anxious or intrusive thoughts they have – no matter how negative they may seem – are normal.

    I like the idea of just saying 'call me if you want to cry with someone and your hormones go nuts'. At least it gives them some idea and can click afterward.

    It's too bad the ideal and assumption is this magical, euphoric moment. When it's not. Not even for Mom's who just get the blues for a few days. Even the most well-adjusted Moms I know who never had baby blues or depression told me they cried.

    The problem is there's no real education on this. Not with any real substance. Just pamphlets and the nurse who told me, "If you're sad for more than 2 weeks, tell someone" when I left the hospital. I think the only way to really educate is for Mom's to open up about it more. It's finding that dialogue balance. Or it should be a REAL conversation included in childbirth and baby basic classes. The men would benefit from hearing about it too.

  14. I sat in the hospital with a friend that I had poured out my heart to about my own struggle with PPD after she had her daughter. Everything was "perfect" and "wonderful" and "amazing." I wanted to warn her that all those feelings might go out the window once she arrived at home, but at the same time, I didn't want to place my own negative postpartum feelings upon her. I guess I didn't really want to rain on her parade and instead wanted her to realize that newborns are difficult and exhausting….all on her own. Or maybe she won't feel the same way and she'll get home adjust well to being a mother and taking care of her daughter. And there's a little part (okay, a big part) of me that is so jealous that everything WAS wonderful for her during delivery and in the few days after her child's birth.

    It's such a tricky spot to be in because a part of me wants to scream it from the rooftops that this could happen to them, but then there's the part of me that is still ashamed that it DID happen to me.

  15. It is a tough task to undertake. I try to keep it simple. When I know a friend is expecting, regardless of whether it is her first pregnancy, I simply send an email explaining how happy I am for her. I tell her that I will pray for a healthy and happy mom and baby. I also send a link to this website along and tell her to keep it to peruse if she ever feels "off". I tell her that I had perinatal mood disorders and that I didn't realize it can affect anyone and it is ok to get help.