I’m concerned for my girlfriend – we had a baby 6 weeks ago and she just seems to be so down about everything. I’m quite worried about her but she says everything is OK. What should I do?
It is not unusual to feel down after a baby. It is great that you are aware of your girlfriend’s mood and motivated to help her. It is possible she is suffering from postnatal depression. This affects one in ten mothers, and usually begins around three to six months after delivery. The anxiety, irritability, poor concentration, and depressed mood that tend to occur have a profound effect upon the life of the whole family. Postnatal depression is a complicated illness with no simple cause. It is likely that the hormonal, physical and psychological changes occurring around the time of birth all contribute. For the woman to become depressed at a time when they feel they want to, and should, be enjoying life with a new baby makes the situation feel even worse.
There is no instant solution, but there are things that you can do to help her. The best thing that you can do is to be there for you’re her and listen to how she feels. Talking to a supportive partner is helpful. Take some pressure off her by being patient with her, and by helping as much as possible with the daily tasks of looking after your baby, and ensuring that she has some regular time to do something for herself, e.g. exercise, walk, swim or see a friend. Family and friends who are willing to do something practical such as ironing, walking with the baby or a supermarket shop should be encouraged. Your health visitor will be experienced in dealing with postnatal depression and will be used to supporting women and their families through such difficulties. Try and talk to her for further advice. Also encourage your girlfriend to see her GP, perhaps you can go together. Postnatal depression is an illness, and as with many illnesses, professional intervention is necessary if the sufferer is to regain her health and peace of mind.
You could also seek social support by contacting the Association for Postnatal Illness www.apni.org.uk is a website which may be helpful.