Becoming a mother for the first time can be filled with anxiety and stress. This is completely normal for all parents due to the extent of change happening in both your lives.
If Postnatal Depression (PND) hits, those around you can also feel its effects. It is imperative you seek help from professional mental health therapists but it’s equally important that you get appropriately supported by family and friends.
Studies on the role of emotional support from family and friends has shown that it directly affects the outcome on depression, that is, the more support the better for your recovery.
Here’s how to approach the topic of emotional support from your partner, family and friends.
Tips on how to ask for help when you may be struggling with postnatal depression
Ask for emotional support instead of their opinion
Quite often partners, family and friends can tend to tell you what they think you should do. Although their intentions may be to help you, this can often feel like a criticism, especially if you are going through PND.
Chances are they may not realise how they make you feel. Let them know that allowing you the time and space to talk about your worries and feelings without judgement will provide you comfort and reassurance.
Ask for practical support
While emotional support is important, you may find you also need help with tasks at home while you adapt to motherhood. You may be feeling overwhelmed, helpless and fatigued so reaching out is not an indication of any kind of failure as a mother.
You may find it’s helpful if your partner or family member assists you in the household chores, instead of doing them for you.
By helping you with activities such as bathing the baby, housework or going for a walk as a family, you are getting encouragement from your family instead of isolating yourself from the everyday activities of life and your baby.
Ask to be held responsible for a healthier way of life
As you find yourself on the road to recovery, some women find it helpful to be held accountable for ensuring they practice self-care; almost every mother will tell you they are at the bottom of their list of priorities.
When we make a public commitment, we are more likely to stick to that commitment due to accountability. So tell your family and friends to check in with you regarding consistent physical activity, relaxation time or in maintaining social connections.
If you’re still feeling anxious about venturing out by yourself and baby, ask for a rotation of help from family for a couple of walks during the week.
First and foremost, it’s important to recognise the signs of PND and get help from a mental health professional.
You are not alone, there are brilliant resources out there for you to get help such as Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA), which has a team of trained professionals waiting for your call on 1300 726 306 or visit www.panda.org.au for more information. For help outside of work hours, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Here is everything you need to know about Postnatal Depression.