My cousin is pregnant and has a history of depression. Is she at risk for post partum depression? Is post partum depression any different from regular depression? What can I do to help?
Post partum depression (PPD) occurs in 10-20% of mothers up to one year after the birth of a child.
Women are at more risk of post partum depression if they have:
- a history of depression
- a great deal of stress
- a family history of depression
- difficult birth of the baby
- a sick baby
- no friends or family to support them
Postpartum depression is quite similar to ordinary depression. It may be triggered by hormonal changes with birth or by all the changes that occur with the birth of a baby. Women with post partum depression often have anxiety as well.
It is different from post partum psychosis in which mom’s lose touch with reality and may become quite agitated. Post partum psychosis is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment is mandatory for the safety of the mom and her baby.
The treatments for post partum depression are the same as for other types of depression. Cognitive behaviour therapy and interpersonal therapy have been shown to be effective. Antidepressant medications also work.
Your cousin has probably discussed what to do with her doctor and they probably have a plan. If your cousin is on antidepressant medication she and her doctor may decide to continue on medication. They will have to weigh the risks and benefits of all options.
Depending on your relationship with your cousin, you might be able to provide lots of help for her. If you are close to her, she may want to talk to you. You may be a special friend for her.
Maybe you are not that close. As with any new mom, she will need support from family and friends. All moms need some assistance. Maybe you can help by minding the baby for a while so the new mom can get a nap, go out for a walk on her own or have a coffee with a friend.
Perhaps you can help her by:
- noticing positive things like the way she soothes her baby
- taking her out for lunch
- having her over to your place
- chatting on the phone with her
When dealing with people who are depressed, you have to balance your wish to help and the need for depressed people to run their own lives as they see fit.
Don’t take over. Don’t be over the top. She is not helpless. You will not help her by making her feel incompetent. She will need her space.
Remember she can make her own decisions. Just because she is depressed or has been depressed doesn’t mean she isn’t in a position to run her own life. Be respectful of her.
Depressed people sometimes reject those around them. Don’t take it personally. And don’t give up your efforts to be helpful. Back off a little and let her know you care and want to be helpful. Ask her what you can do.
She is lucky you are concerned.