The One Thing ALL New Mothers Should Have...

Having a baby is the most exciting and exhilarating time in a woman's life. Sadly, for some, this exciting time is quickly overshadowed by "baby blues" and postpartum depression.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an estimated 9-16% of postpartum women will experience postpartum depression. That may sound like a small number, but when you factor in that UNICEF estimates 130 million babies are born around the world each year, that means each year millions are suffering from PPD. Heartbreaking. 

As someone who fell in the 9-16%, I know the pain, fear, confusion, sadness, feelings of worthlessness... the darkness. Unfortunately, so many women like myself, don't seek help until they reach their braking point because they either don't know they have PPD, or are too ashamed to seek help. 

It took me three months to finally let a friend in on my darkness. She gave me the love and encouragement I needed to face PPD head-on.  She saved my life, and as scary as this is for me to 
say, possibly my son's too. 

My first moments of relief from PPD came when my doctor told me it was not my fault that I had PPD. He promised that I was not a bad mother, and that with treatment I would feel much better. 

If only I would have opened up sooner.

In an effort to save as many women as possible from living in the sadness and darkness of PPD one day longer than they have to, I propose all expecting women have a Postpartum Buddy; a close friend or family member who monitors the new mother during her first few months postpartum. (Even the mother's of multiples. PPD doesn't always strike the first time, or every time.)

FACT: The AAP says the following are ways both mother and baby suffer: 
For mothers, PPD can:
  Affect ability to function in everyday life and increase risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, self blame, and fear;  Lead to difficulty in providing developmentally appropriate care to infants; Lead to a loss of pleasure or interest in life, sleep disturbance, feelings of irritability or anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, crying, and thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child; Be particularly problematic because of the social role adjustments expected of new mothers, which include immediate and constant infant care, redefining spousal and familial relationships, and work role. 
           Children of mothers with PPD can:
  Become withdrawn, irritable, or inconsolable;  Display insecure attachment and behavioral problems;  Experience problems in cognitive, social, and emotional development;  Have a higher risk of anxiety disorders and major depression in childhood and     adolescence. 
Fathers can also be depressed in the postpartum period, especially if the mother is depressed or if the father is not satisfied with the marital relationship or with life after the birth of the child.


But it happens. 

Thankfully, by understanding and catching PPD soon enough, harmony and bliss can be restored. 

That's where the Postpartum Buddy comes in. A postpartum buddy is someone who understands it's crucial to check on a new mother, and look for warning signs. Most of all, understand the difference between the Baby Blues and PPD.

FACT: According to the Mayo Clinic: 

Baby blues symptoms, which last only a few days to a week or two — may include: 
•    Mood swings•    Anxiety•    Sadness•    Irritability•    Crying•    Decreased concentration•    Trouble sleeping 

PPD-Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer — may include:   
•    Loss of appetite•    Insomnia•    Intense irritability and anger•    Overwhelming fatigue•    Loss of interest in sex•    Lack of joy in life•    Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy•    Severe mood swings•    Difficulty bonding with your baby•    Withdrawal from family and friends•    Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

No one should suffer from depression one day longer than they have to! 

Not one day.

After giving this Postpartum Buddy idea some great thought, and talking it over with a dear friend, I have come up with five things the Buddy should be, and do...

1. A postpartum buddy (PB) should not be a partner/spouse. Becoming new parents is tough; both are dealing with a lot. Plus, Men aren't always so great at understanding the difference between moodiness and depression; they kind of just chalk it all up to bitchiness.

2. The postpartum buddy should be someone you trust and be open with easily. Someone you can barely keep a secret from.

3. Prior to delivery, all fears about PPD should be discussed with the PB, and an action plan created. The action plan should include what to do in the case of PPD, and include the doctor's office number and address, so the PB can not only make the appointment if need be, but also drive.

4. The PB understands this is a serious job. They need to call/visit regularly and ask important questions. They HAVE TO stick with the new mother until all concerns over PPD are gone. 

5. The Postpartum Buddy helps the new mother get out of the house regularly the first few weeks; even if it's just once a week to get her away from the baby and see how she is functioning. 

Again, this is not a fix, but it's a start. My hope for the Postpartum Buddy idea is that it will save at least one mother and her baby from suffering. If the line of communication is open before the PPD begins, then hopefully the new mother will understand that having PPD is not her fault, and that with a little help, this too shall pass. 

All new mothers need someone to talk to and vent to. Becoming a new mother is scary business. Having someone call to check on you, not the baby, but YOU, goes a long way to a new mother. I know, it meant the world to me. 

Please, if you know a new mother, call her and be her Postpartum Buddy. 

What do you think? Did you have a PB? Did you suffer from PPD?

April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit