In Postpartum depression: Effects on relationships (1), we looked at this disturbing condition from the mother’s point of view, explaining that the lack of interest in the newborn and the inability to adequately care for the new baby is simply the effect of the illness, not a reflection of mothering ability.
Today we will look at how postpartum depression affects other family members and how partners, friends, and grandparents can best act to assist in the mother’s speedy recovery.
First, it is important that the mother, despite her transient unwellness, is not deprived of her mothering rights by well-meaning relatives. When she is able, the mother should spend as much time with her new baby as possible, without compromising her own health in the process. It is important that the new baby not be “whisked away” and cared for by another family member in the belief that this is what is best. The mother should be made to feel that she is in control of the situation as much as possible, and that includes her having the final say, as a mother should, over as many issues concerning the baby as she can manage. Her role as a mother should be supported by appropriate actions of other family members in order for her to regain her lost confidence and interest in the baby and the environment around her.
Postpartum depression is not a sign of personal weakness and is widespread among all personality types. Indeed a woman may have one or two pregnancies with few difficulties and find that postpartum depression strikes with later children. Of course, some mothers do experience the condition with their first child. It is these mothers who often suffer the most as they do not possess the knowledge and experience of having successfully traversed those first difficult months of motherhood with earlier children.
Alternatively, mothers who experience postpartum depression with later births may wonder where they went wrong in the current situation. Although postpartum depression is largely believed to be associated with fluctuating hormones, there are circumstances that may predispose a woman to the condition. We will look into this aspect of postpartum depression in coming blogs.
It is important to remember that the condition is temporary and recovery will occur, although the length of recovery will differ from woman to woman and with the degree of general stress in her life. That is why it is important that family and friends make themselves familiar with the condition and not have unrealistic expectations about recovery time or “unusual requirements.”
An unwell mother will require assistance with household duties at times; at other times she will be able to perform tasks as usual. The condition will fluctuate during the recovery period, and suddenly requiring extra help after a period of high functionality should be regarded as par for the course, not a sign of another collapse. As with other types of depression, this condition displays cycles of wellness and unwellness, with the latter gradually spacing out with longer periods between incapacity.
The mother may also dread being left alone. This, too, is a common symptom of the disorder and company should be sought until this phase of the illness passes. Help with cooking and washing is of great importance. Of particular assistance is time spent with older children in the family. This will allow the new mother to concentrate what energy she possesses on her new baby, thus allowing the bonding process to stay on track as much as possible.
Next blog: more helpful hints for dealing with the issues surrounding postpartum depression.
Contact Beth McHugh for further information or assistance regarding this issue.