Up to 80 percent of new moms experience a mild form of depression, sometimes called the baby blues, for a few days after the birth of a child, according to the website BabyCenter. Sometimes, though, the baby blues can become a more serious, long-lasting version called postpartum depression. If someone you know shows signs of sadness, irritability, withdrawal from friends and family, anxiety or guilt for two weeks or more, she may have postpartum depression.
Encourage the depressed new mom to seek counseling. This usually means formal sessions with a trained therapist, but sometimes the depressed woman doesn't feel comfortable seeking therapy. In these cases, suggest a qualified member of her faith, a support group, a peer counselor or a mental health hotline.
Help the new mom with household chores such as cleaning and cooking. Doing these things while also caring for a new baby can be overwhelming and can contribute to depression. Offer to run errands for her or provide child care for the new baby or other children in order to give her time to relax, even if it's only 15 or 20 minutes.
Try to get her to participate in social, relaxing or energetic activities. Take her to the gym as your workout buddy or send her to a spa for a massage. Anything that helps her lower cortisol, the stress hormone, can help bring her out of her depression.
Provide the depressed mother with nutritious meals. She may be too depressed and overwhelmed to cook for herself and may wind up ordering out or picking up unhealthy fast food all the time. Because healthy eating provides the nutrients necessary for healthy mental functioning, an unhealthy diet can make depression even worse. Head off her indulgence in junk food by preparing meals and snacks for the new mom. Cut up some fruit and share it with her as a snack or cook things that can be frozen for later use.
Don't forget to take care of yourself, too. If you are the father of the new baby, a grandparent or just a good friend, you'll do more for the new mom by being healthy and available to help her out when needed. If you're exhausted or stressed, you're less likely to be able to give her what she needs during this time.
Remember, there is no way to cure or fix someone else's depression. You can encourage her to take positive steps and seek out help, but in the end it's her decision.
If a new mother expresses concerns that she may harm her child or herself or has hallucinations, delusions or paranoia, you should insist that she seek help immediately or contact a health professional yourself to intervene. This can be a sign of postpartum psychosis and requires quick medical intervention.