How Friends and Family Members Can Help
Pregnancy and the months following childbirth are a stressful time of life whether or not a parent has a PMAD or paternal depression. In any situation, friends and family can offer practical support. Bring a meal. Wash the dishes. Care for older children.
Ask the expectant or new parents questions about how they are feeling, eating, sleeping, etc. and then listen and validate both parents’ feelings. Let them know they are not alone and other people feel this way, too. If you are noticing warning signs of a PMAD, address it openly and assist them with finding help.
Remember, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are real illnesses. The symptoms are not a sign of personal weakness.
Helpful Things to Do and Say
- Be patient! Recovery will not happen overnight.
- Encourage the parent to talk about his/her feelings and show you understand by listening and accepting that the feelings are genuine.
- Sit down with the parent(s) to make a list of what you and/or others can do to help out.
- Help and/or enlist the aid of other family members or friends with household chores.
- Care for the baby or assist in arranging childcare so Mom can catch up on sleep, take a break or go out. Remember, parents need time away from the baby, too!
- Offer to go to doctor and therapist appointments with her/him.
- Encourage activity. Suggest going for a walk together, out to dinner, watching a movie, etc.
- Support her/him in seeking and pursuing treatment (therapy, medication, support group, exercise, eating well, etc.)
- Let the parent know she/he is doing their best and point out ways you see she/he is doing a good job. (Be specific, like: “I love how you smile at the baby.”
- Tell the parent it isn’t her/his fault and not to place blame.
|Don’t Say …||Because …|
|"Just relax."||Anxiety produces physical reactions like increased heart rate, shakiness, shortness of breath and muscle tension. Anxiety is not something a person can will away.|
|"Snap out of it!"||If the person could, she/he would have already. A person cannot snap out of any illness.|
|"Think positive!" and/or "Think about everything you have to feel happy about."||The nature of this illness prevents positive thinking, as negative, guilt-ridden thoughts are prevalent.|
|"You just need more sleep."||Sleep is important, but it is not ALL the person needs.|
|"Women and men have been having babies for centuries!"||Women and men have been getting PMAD for centuries as well.|
|"Why can’t you be more like Stacy or Mike?"||Comparisons to other new parents only increases the negative feelings.|
|"What did you do all day long?"||This can be interpreted as an attack; instead, compliment her/him on the things accomplished during the day.|
|"I’m tired of you feeling this way. I liked you better the way you were before."||Frustration and disappointment only adds to anger regarding the situation.|