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How To Be Supportive To A Friend Suffering From Postpartum Depression

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), which include postpartum depression, can show up during pregnancy or days or even months following.

Postnatal depression is the term used for the depressive symptoms that some women experience in the first year post-pregnancy. 

Symptoms of postnatal depression may start as simple hormonal adjustments – often dubbed 'baby blues' – and go on to get worse.

It occurs in 10 to 15% of Irish women within the first year of giving birth. If not treated, symptoms can last for much longer than the child's early years.

If you have a friend or loved one who you think could be struggling with postpartum depression, here are the most important things you can help do to support her, according to experts:

1. Ask them how they’re feeling

Reaching out to a friend who you think is struggling is important.

When you do, be mindful of your language—you want them to be comfortable and honest with you about how they’re doing. Instead of leading with, “How are you feeling?”, voicing a more empathetic and personal tone could get them to open up. 

You can do this by asking something like, “I know new mothers have a really hard time in the first few months of childcare. How’s it going?”

2. Listen with compassion

If your friend wants to talk about what they’re experiencing, one of the most important things you can do is listening.

For friends that have experienced similar hardship, they can give advice. And as for friends who haven't, listening and being there – despite not being able to relate – is hugely important. 

3. Normalise their experience

Mothers can often feel very ashamed of postpartum depression like somehow they’re doing it wrong. While this is the heartbreaking reality, remind your friend that it's normal, that it happens and that it's definitely not her fault. 

Postpartum Support International has a mantra: “You are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help you will be well.”

4. Help her get help

Finding help when you’re experiencing mental health issues is hard enough; doing it when you also have a newborn is that much harder.

Make the overwhelming process of finding a relevant counsellor or support service a bit easier by sharing resources and knowledge with your friend. 

For more information on finding someone that may help, check out Postnatal Depression Ireland here

Anyone affected by this article should get in contact with: 

  • Postnatal Depression Ireland on 021 4922083 / [email protected]

  • Samaritans, freephone: 116123 or text 087-260 9090

  • Pieta House, freephone: 1800-247247 or text HELP to 51444

  • Aware, freephone: 1800-804848,

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