If momma isn’t happy, no one is happy

The importance of supporting women with perinatal depression.

Many mothers have depression, which makes them feel down, sad and unable to cope with everyday tasks. What makes matters worse is that most women do not even know that they are depressed. However, these moms, their children and their families can live better lives if they can recognize and get treatment for their depression. With treatment, depression symptoms can be reduced or even eliminated. Enlisting the help of spouses/partners, family and friends can greatly improve the effects of treatment. 

Untreated depression can affect a mom’s ability to parent. Depression symptoms such as lack of energy, trouble focusing and feeling moody all contribute to being unable to meet the baby’s needs. A mother’s depression can affect the baby in many ways, but getting treatment can help.

  • Babies want and need to feel connected to their moms. Some moms with depression have trouble getting close to their babies, which can affect the babies’ development. Treatment can help mom get closer to her baby and encourage her to take part in parenting support programs.
  • Babies have many needs and require a lot of immediate attention and energy from mom. Mom’s with depression may have trouble responding because they feel sad or have very little energy. By getting treatment, mothers can respond more consistently and appropriately to their babies.
  • Older children continue to have demands and need support. Moms who get treatment are more likely to have the patience to offer the support her other children need.

In addition, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, untreated postpartum depression can cause a baby to have delays in language, problems with mother/infant bonding, behavior problems and increased crying. 

As a spouse or partner of a mom struggling with perinatal depression, there are things that you can do to help. The most important of which is to encourage her to seek help. During day-to-day activities, say nice things, give compliments  and offer to help with chores. Listen to her and let her express her feelings. Encourage her to focus on herself. Physical and social needs help them feel stronger, more relaxed and better about themselves overall. Remember to take time for yourself too. It is important for spouses and partners to continue to enjoy hobbies, work and other social activities. 

Other family members and friends can help by babysitting older children or offering to do household chores. Just being there, even if she does not want to talk is helpful. Understand that dad may also be feeling overwhelmed by being a new parent and helping support a partner with depression. You could offer to sit with mom and baby, giving dad a chance to get out of the house for a while. 

One more thing you can do is to become knowledgeable about where to go for help and information. There are many excellent resources on perinatal depression. Michigan State University Extension recommends the following.

  • Postpartum Support International 800-944-4773
  • Postpartum Education for Parents 800-311-2229 (English), 800-504-7081 (Spanish)
  • National Mental Health Association 800-969-6642

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