Supporting new mothers: watch out for post-partum depression

Workplaces are increasingly becoming sensitive to the needs of new mothers – offering paid maternity leaves, babysitters, and what not. All this, so women can get back on track with their career ambitions. But, we all know that it is not easy resuming work after pregnancy. 

Lauren Smith Brody, founder of the Fifth Trimester Movement, surveyed 732 working moms, and found that it took an average of six months after delivery, to start feeling emotionally stable. This phase is also when post-partum depression (PPD) might set in. About 1 in 7 women experience this intensely. 

What exactly is thisPPD happens due to a combination of factors. Not only is the mother’s body undergoing immense hormonal changes, but also recovering from the birth. Add to it the overwhelm of life changes, learning to take care of a baby, managing fatigue, and insomnia. Often employees go out of their way to show they are doing fine, because they don’t want to be perceived as incapable. This is where the problem starts. Denial of this mental health issue impacts both personal and professional spaces.

How can we support mothers with PPD, so they can have the best of both their worlds?

  • Watch out for changes. If someone is over or under productive immediately after maternity leave, check in on them. Find out what would help them ramp up with ease. Do they seem quieter than usual? Or maybe more extroverted? All these are signs that emotional changes are occurring. Initiate a one-on-one conversation to simply know about their inner state.
  • Learn about it yourself. Got new parents on the team? Learn about PPD or even basic emotional challenges that people face with parenthood – be it men or women. This will help you understand and anticipate the challenges with their transition. And, if you know what to look out for, it will take the pressure off your employees to communicate their emotional state with you.
  • Know what you can offer. Since post-pregnancy changes are dynamic, women need a wide range of options when it comes to reintegrating back to work. This could be working completely from home initially, to part time choices, like coming to office thrice a week. And then scale this up over 4-5 months, to make it full time. The key – allow them the freedom to choose.
  • Educate others. The more we normalize the occurrence of mental health challenges, the more chances our employees will have to recover from them, and the more supported they will feel. So, host seminars or learning sessions about issues like PPD, anxiety, depression, stress, etc. Invite professionals to deliver them. It takes an entire village to change things for the better.

Remember, that post-partum depression is a phase, which when dealt with, takes 2-3 months to disappear. Offer that commitment to your people, so they can show up for you as well.

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