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A friend of mine recently added a beautiful and much-loved baby girl to her family, and since then I’ve been admiring the outpouring of darling photos on Facebook. Today I found out there’s a shadowy side to their bright new life: Postpartum depression.

My friend posted today about what she’s been going through: illogical thoughts, temper problems, and lack of motivation to finish anything she starts. She’s having trouble taking care of her family and herself.

It’s sad to see, this contrast between the joy a mother could be experiencing and the pain she’s going through instead. But postpartum depression is common: About 10 to 20 percent of mothers go through it. It’s different from simple postpartum baby blues, which is more common but less intense and prolonged. Postpartum depression can last for many months if left untreated. Its symptoms include mood swings, lots of crying, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawing from family and friends, feeling worthless, overwhelming fatigue and more (go here for a longer list).

The good news is that it can, of course, be treated. If you’re experiencing PPD, know it doesn’t have to last long. Medication and therapy can both make a big difference.

A lot of people hesitate over taking antidepressants while breastfeeding, and it is good to be fully informed about the risks. But it’s also important to weigh the risks from medication with the risks of going untreated. A mother’s psychological distress is harmful to her health and her baby’s development. Children of mothers with untreated postpartum depression are at risk for all kinds of issues: Emotional problems (including depression), behavioral problems, ADHD, and slower language development, for example. Families with maternal PPD are even at an increased risk for homelessness.

So get help. Don’t wait to see if it will improve on its own. Get help! If you suspect a friend is experiencing postpartum depression, help her get help.

I was impressed with an exchange in the comments of my friend’s recent post about her PPD. A commenter asked how she could help, and my friend asked her to send a detailed two-week meal plan, shopping list included. Such a specific request, and so helpful! Not having to think about what to cook every day will be a big weight off my friend’s shoulders.

My friend was bold enough to ask for this help, but some aren’t. So keep that in mind as a specific offer you can make. Other ways you can help a friend struggling with PPD:

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