How to Help Someone with Postpartum Depression
Supporting a Partner with Postpartum Depression
Pregnancy and postpartum mental health disorders are common, treatable medical conditions. 1 in 5 women will experience distressing emotional reactions during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth. 50% of men with a partner struggling with postpartum depression also have the disorder.
As a father, supporting a partner with postpartum depression is crucial to her treatment and getting better. A healthy mom contributes to a healthy family.
Know the Signs
Up to 80% of new mothers experience the “baby blues”: weepiness, irritability, exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed. These symptoms resolve or dramatically improve within the first three weeks after childbirth. Postpartum depression or anxiety is much more series. Symptoms include feeling anxious, agitated, sleeping too much or not at all, trouble falling asleep after waking, excessive worrying, irritability, anger, guilt, shame, feeling disconnected from family and/or baby, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and possible thoughts of harming the baby or herself. Up to 25% of women experience postpartum depression.
Your partner will have good and bad days. There may be days when she will feel more like her old self, but it doesn’t mean she is completely recovered. These good days will increase as the bad days decrease, but completely recovering from postpartum depression takes time. She will need reassurance that she will get better and that the bad days do not represent her normal self.
Your partner will go through periods of well being and then experience times of feeling bad. These changes are normal with postpartum depression. Watching her go through times of feeling normal for a long time can lead you to believe that she is recovered, and you may experience frustration when the low days return. Accept the good days and the bad days. Support her when she is feeling low and encourage her when she is feeling good. Recovery from postpartum depression is very gradual.
Ask Her How She Feels
Supporting a partner with postpartum depression can be difficult. Many women are skilled at covering up their feelings, and you may not be able to tell how she is feeling based on her behavior. Instead, ask how she is feeling to get a better sense of her emotions. Try to set aside at least five minutes every day to check in with each other without interruptions.
Your partner may begin to resent the fact that you can go to work, eat lunch, or take a shower without being interrupted or having to stop at watch the baby. From her perspective, she may find her role frustrating or boring: full of endless chores without much adult company. Even she sees others, she may not be able to have a conversation without having to change a diaper, breastfeed, or deal with being thrown up on. These are all demands made on her, which will be made worse by her postpartum depression.
Both of your lives have changed since the birth of your baby. You may now be the sole wage earner, which can be stressful. You may feel at times that she is more competent than you when dealing with the baby. You may also feel left out, as it can seem that she only has time for the baby. Don’t give up. Keep talking with your partner about her feelings and your feelings.
Take Time to be Together
Taking time for yourselves to reconnect as a couple can be important for both you and your partner. Your partner may want caring and affection from you without necessarily being physically intimate. Being a new mother is emotionally and physically demanding. Meeting the needs of a new baby may not leave her much reserve left for you. Try not to take this as a rejection. Explore other ways to connect as a couple.
Do Some Little Things
Now, more than ever, your partner needs your help and support. Some little things will go a long way. Help feed baby at night so she can get at least one five-hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep. Cook a meal or, if she is feeling up for it, take her out to eat. Take baby to run an errand so she can have some time alone, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Help her get the children ready when you are all going out, and help with the bedtime routine. Bring home some flowers or a small surprise to let her know you care. Tell her you appreciate her.
Reach Out for Support
Supporting a partner with postpartum depression can be taxing on you as well as her. Keep reaching out for support. Your own self-care is equally important. You may be experiencing similar symptoms, which is not uncommon especially when your partner is not well.
Everyone has different recovery times, some longer than others, but she WILL get better. She will be her old self again and things will get better for you both.