Postnatal depression (PND) is a term most people are familiar with, but it’s also a condition that’s hard to envision unless you’ve been through it. It happens to women shortly after they give birth, turning what should be one of the happiest times of their life into a time of depression and anxiety.
When I suffered from PND, I felt constantly judged by others. Even some of their well-meaning comments hurt and caused friction in otherwise great relationships. If you’re struggling to avoid adding fuel to the fire when dealing with a woman going through PND, please look over our tips of what not to say to her.
1. You just need to recharge your batteries
PND is different than simply needing a break to feel like yourself again. Drinks with the girls or a shopping trip won’t fix the situation. If anything, it might make it worse. With PND, I always felt guilty and sad - no matter what I did. I resented it when people insinuated I’d be fine if I took a break.
2. Anything at all about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is one of those topics that can divide a whole nation. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion on it - from whether it should be done in the first place to whether it should be done in public.
Some people strongly encourage mums with PND to keep breastfeeding, while others suggest they stop. But, ultimately, that decision belongs to the mum. It’s hurtful to make her feel bad about her decision, despite your own strong feelings about it.
Breastfeeding is a topic best left alone altogether when dealing with PND.
3. You’re just missing all the attention of being pregnant
Yes, pregnant women get a lot of attention. Some pregnant women love that, while others hate it.
I was one of the women who didn’t like it, so I was glad to have that attention shifted to my baby. And I still struggled with PND.
This isn’t the case of a woman wanting all eyes on her - it’s a legitimate medical condition. Painting a woman out to be childish and selfish instead of recognising that is blaming the victim.
4. Just pray for guidance
This can be incredibly offensive on so many levels. First off, the woman you’re talking to may not share your faith. And secondly, PND is a real medical condition so it takes more than just prayers to deal with it.
Just as you wouldn’t recommend a woman with cancer forgo treatment in favour of praying her illness away, you shouldn’t suggest it with PND.
5. Keep this to yourself
As incredible as it sounds, some people still feel as if mental issues are something that should be hidden or never discussed. But that does a major disservice to those who struggle with them now and the women who will someday. Without awareness, the situation won’t get better for those women.
If we bring this condition into the light, they might be able to find the help and resources they need.
Chances are, the woman in your life with PND is already blaming herself. I know I did.
And since you’re reading this article, you clearly want to help her. Instead of offering advice, because it’s a situation you don’t truly understand if you’ve never lived it, just let her know you are there to help her in any way you can.
Ask her what you can do to help and let her know you are always in her corner. Statements like that will be greatly appreciated and will boost her up through the bad days.
Jenny Silverstone is the mother of a precious daughter and a writer for the online parenting resource Mom Loves Best. Jenny strives to use her platform to educate, support and inspire those who are suffering and recovering from postnatal depression, just like she has.