How Postpartum Depression Affects Siblings
It is well known that postpartum depression doesn’t just affect the mother. Postpartum depression challenges an entire family, and it can become overwhelming for everyone involved. This includes siblings who may find it difficult to cope when their sister is suffering from postpartum depression.
A relationship with a sibling may be the longest relationship someone has during the course of their lifetime. These long, rich relationships can be strained when one sibling is affected by a health condition such as postpartum depression. Withdrawal from social events and responsibilities can initially prevent people from realizing her state.
Many factors can determine how postpartum depression affects someone. If you’re close to your sister, it can be devastating realize she is suffering.
Additionally, household responsibilities like child care and homemaking often on family members during postpartum depression because it debilitates the affected person. Many of these responsibilities fall to siblings who live nearby or are close to the woman.
Though it can be challenging for families when a loved one is suffering from postpartum depression, there are some specific ways for siblings to provide support and seek the support they need as well.
Postpartum Depression Support for Siblings
If your sibling is suffering from postpartum depression, it can cause a lot of confusion, concern and even suffering of your own during this time. By educating yourself about postpartum depression and knowing the available resources, you can provide support to your sister as she recovers.
Postpartum Depression Education
Learning about the symptoms, risk factors, treatments and recovery process for postpartum depression can help you feel better prepared to support your sister in her time of need.
In learning about postpartum depression, you can better understand how this condition develops and which symptoms are common. Knowing what to expect can help you alleviate some of the uncertainty that comes with a postpartum depression diagnosis.
Realizing that postpartum depression is not permanent and recovery is possible allows family members to remain supportive and encouraging even when the woman is faced with despair.
A common challenge that family members, including siblings, face when their loved one is suffering from postpartum depression is not knowing how to properly offer support. It’s normal for siblings to feel helpless or as though they don’t know what to do even though they want desperately to help.
While postpartum depression affects each woman differently, there are some specific ways you can provide support for your sister as she recovers.
First, it’s important to let her know that you are supporting her as she seeks treatment. The only way to manage the condition is to actively seek treatment through a combination of medication and therapy. By supporting her treatment efforts, you can help her feel more confident in the steps she is taking toward recovery.
Support can also come by filling in around the house, as her depression may prevent her from completing basic tasks at first. By removing the burden of household chores, errands or other tasks you can alleviate additional stress and anxiety she may feel.
Finally, support can simply come in the form of continued positive reinforcement and encouragement. Suffering from postpartum depression can cause women to feel hopeless and as though their symptoms may never end. But as her sibling, you can provide support by reminding her that she is taking the correct steps to manage symptoms and heal herself.
As an immediate family member, siblings often suffer in silence as they take on the struggles of their sister’s condition. Many times, siblings don’t get the support that they need because they are focused on supporting and caring for their sister. During this time, they may neglect their own needs and exhibit their own symptoms of depression or anxiety.
If this is the case, it’s important to seek your own support resources. Whether it’s through therapy or the support of other family members and friends, taking care of your own health is vital in being able to provide your sister with continued support. If you are struggling you may not be able to provide adequate support to your sister.
Self-Help for Siblings
As part of seeking support for yourself, it’s important to have deliberate self-care practices in place. Prioritizing self-care and your health are important if you are struggling to understand and support your sister’s condition.
Healthy self-care practices for siblings include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Ensuring you are getting enough exercise
- Getting enough rest and staying hydrated
Many family members also take on stress as someone close to them is going through a health challenge. This is why it is important to implement stress-management practices such as:
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Deep breathing and stretching
- Nature walks and spending time outdoors
It is possible for family members to add to their own stress by providing round-the-clock care for the mother, which can eventually lead to burnout and exhaustion.
Instead, work with your sister’s partner or other family members to come up with a schedule for visiting if needed. This can prevent overwhelming both the new mother and other members of the family.