How Social Support Can Help Your Postpartum Depression

Women who have been there say the first few months are no time to play supermom

They don't come with instructions, so ask for help.
Therapists often remind mothers with postpartum depression of the instructions given to airplane passengers about oxygen masks. If you're traveling with a child, you're told to put on your own mask before putting one on your child. You can't help your kid if you've passed out due to lack of oxygen. It's the same principle with depression: Do what's best for yourself so you can do what's best for your baby.

Getting help on your own terms
"Lack of social support can contribute to postpartum depression," says Ann Dunnewold, PhD, a Dallas-based psychologist who specializes in postpartum depression. "And more social support is critical in making it better."

The key, she adds, is to have it on your own terms. "Sometimes the mother-in-law will come over to be with the baby, but what the new mom needs is for her to do the laundry. To help, everyone needs to ask themselves what the mom really wants."

Amy Sky, 47, of Toronto, could write a book on the importance of social support after childbirth. After suffering harrowing postpartum depression with her first child, during which she had her husband's support but no professional assistance, she took careful steps to avoid the same circumstances.

She hired a midwife who had experience with postpartum depression to assist her with the birth, hired a housekeeper and a nurse, and committed to staying in bed for six weeks after the baby was born. "I planned on just nursing and sleeping, and let nature take its course," she says.

12 Next
Lead writer: Mary Pinkowish
Last Updated: April 05, 2008

De–stress your life, sleep better, and conquer depression with the latest news and insights on mood management, plus special offers.

More Ways to Connect with Health