Dear Ask the Expert,
My friend recently had a baby and I think she is experiencing postpartum depression. She is really sad, and says she hates to be alone with the baby. We’ve been friends for years, and I’ve never heard her this sad before. Every time we talk on the phone she starts to cry. We don’t live in the same state so it’s hard for me to visit her, and I just don’t know how to help since I live so far away. This is her second baby. Can women who have a second child get PPD even if they didn’t have it with their first child?
Dear Worried Friend,
I’m glad you wrote, because it sounds like a serious situation and your friend should definitely talk to her doctor. Particularly concerning is that you mentioned your friend “hates” to be left alone with her child. This is a red flag that your friend may have Postpartum Depression. Just because your friend did not have Postpartum Depression with her first child does not mean she can’t have PPD after having another child. However, having a history of PPD does increase the probability of PPD after having second and third babies.
In good news, there are a lot of resources for your friend. The biggest hurdle for most new moms is admitting how sad they are feeling and reaching out for help. Since your friend has already told you she is having a hard time and she is concerned, she will probably be open to getting help. Most often, PPD requires medication or psychological therapy. Some of the medications used to treat postpartum depression do seep in to breast milk and some new moms being treated for PPD are recommended to stop nursing.
Try talking with your friend about postpartum depression and maybe see if there is a support group in your area. If you think your friend or her baby is in imminent danger there are PPD emergency support hotlines you can call such as 1(800) 944 4PPD. With a little help, a good doctor, treatment and time your friend should be alright.
Dr. Brad Miller, MD