How to Help a Mom Who Is Struggling


I remember about three weeks after my first son was born sitting on my back patio with him wrapped tightly to my chest, and sobbing. I couldn’t stop. He was a colicky baby who also wouldn’t stop sobbing. We cried together for what seemed like forever that afternoon.

Then I called my mom and told her and she comforted me in saying it’s normal. My body was going through a hormone crash and my emotions were going to be out of sync for awhile.

She was right – I had several of those crying spells over the next couple of weeks, but eventually, they lifted. I experienced the “baby blues,” and while it’s difficult for a mom to go through, it’s really common.

Sometimes the tough times don’t pass that quickly.

Have you or someone you’ve known in your group of mom friends gone through a particularly tough time during motherhood that you wondered if you should do something?

The facts are that no matter where you live, how many kids you have, whether you stay at home or work full-time, the season of motherhood is complicated, hard and sometimes it quickly becomes more than just a rough patch.

If you’ve witnessed behavior from a friend that concerned you, or have been battling anxiety or depression yourself, this article may be what you need. We sat down with licensed social worker Andrea Connell, MSW, LISW-S, to help give some practical tips on what to do when a hard season of motherhood moves past the point of being able to handle on your own. Here’s what she said:

Facts about Common Mental Illnesses in Moms

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental illnesses that moms experience, with women being diagnosed twice as often as men. There are risk factors that increase the chances of postpartum depression, specifically. Those include the shift in hormones during conception until childbirth and after, as well as lifestyle changes relating to new parenthood. Other risk factors include previous anxiety/depression diagnoses, difficulty in breastfeeding, little or no social support and isolation. While many new moms experience “baby blues,” only about 10 to 20 percent actually experience postpartum depression (PPD). PPD lasts up to a year rather than just several weeks.

Signs to Watch for

Many of you have experienced postpartum depression or anxiety or know someone that has. So what’s the right way to help someone if you notice they aren’t themselves? First, look for signs. They include but are not limited to:

Loss of interest in things formerly interesting to you

General sense of sadness or nervousness that don’t seem to let up

An increase or decrease in sleep due to avoidance or inability to turn off your mind

Length of symptoms

Significant signs to look out for are consistently looking disheveled, negative talk about life in general, past suicidal ideation or attempts, hopelessness, lack of future planning or excitement, excessive alcohol consumption, isolation, and failed attempts to “feel better.” A professional should be sought if any of these factors are going on.

What’s Normal

“I think most women, if not all, go through those “rough patches” or “the baby blues” when transitioning to the role of motherhood. As we know it takes some adjusting and does not happen overnight,” says Connell.

Tough days are OK to have for anyone. It’s when those tough days pile up, and the aforementioned warning signs accompany the “tough days” that one may want to consider getting help.  It is normal to overdo it on your first date night out and drink too much. Nothing is problematic until there is a pattern. The point is, don’t overthink it. If you are concerned with your own behavior or a friend’s, don’t hesitate to seek help.

How to Help a Friend

It can be really hard to ask a friend about a topic like this, but if you are considering saying something, recognize that it’s out of true concern and it’s important that love ones do have the courage to say something. You can do this sensitively by being honest and simply saying that you are concerned. This approach shows that you care about her and her well-being. 

Don’t be afraid to ask if your friend if she has had suicidal thoughts.  You are not going to “give them the idea” just by asking, and if you’re embarrassed to ask, think of the consequences if you don’t ask.  If your friend is angry or embarrassed you asked her if she is suicidal, explain again that you care and are concerned because of specific behaviors she has shown.

Motherhood can be incredibly difficult, and true friends and supportive family members aren’t afraid to speak up if they are concerned. If you want to help a friend seek help or want help yourself in dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety, check out this local resource: Perinatal Outreach & Encouragement and contact a health care professional.

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Julie Borm
A native Ohioan, Julie most recently moved to Columbus from Tampa, Florida with her family of four: husband Clint, son Shepard, 2, and son Beau, 7 months. While she'll miss the close proximity to the beaches, she's excited to be back in the state of Ohio and showing her boys Cedar Point, Hocking Hills and snow! After working about a decade in both in-house and agency communications management roles, Julie decided to stay at home and focus on freelance writing and communications consulting. Her family loves being outdoors, and you can find her [attempting to] keep up with her energetic boys by experiencing all of the great family-friendly activities in the Columbus area. To read about her family's adventures in exploring a new city, keep up with her at Borm&Co


  1. Great article, Julie! This is such a tough, yet touchy subject! I too experienced the “baby blues” and it’s good for everyone to know what might be normal and when to go for help. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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