Your partner just gave birth and you became a parent. Congratulations! The journey of pregnancy and childbirth encapsulates every emotion on the spectrum. Since your baby was born, you must have felt excited, and stressed, and happy, and worried, and loving, and tired. Definitely tired. Postpartum depression (PPD) can make this time even more challenging, but don’t worry – it’s reversible and you can help.
If you’re reading this text, then you are off to a good start. The first step to dealing with PPD is understanding what you are up against. It is important to know that a vast majority of women (70-80%) feel some sort of sadness or mood swings for a few days after having a baby. This phenomenon is called “Baby Blues.” The cause of the blues is unclear, but it is thought to be rooted in biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Namely, a mix of hormonal changes, the experience of childbirth itself, overwhelming fatigue, and an adjustment to a new reality with a dynamic routine, among other factors. “Baby Blues” usually go away within two weeks of birth. If it lasts longer and symptoms worsen, your partner may be among the 10-15% of women who experience postpartum depression.
Introducing: Mental Health
Postpartum depression lies in the field of mental health. And as such, should be treated with the care and compassion reserved for mental health treatment. For some, this is a first encounter with mental health concerns, which requires a shift in the way you think. Let’s start with the basics – Don’t take it personally. You might feel like you have tried everything, you may feel disconnected and remote from your partner, you may feel discouraged and hopeless. You might even feel that this condition is a testimony to the weakness of your relationship or that your partner’s condition is your sole responsibility. Well, it’s not. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t help improve the situation. Remember that the person you love didn’t go anywhere – postpartum depression is reversible with the right treatment.
What is the right treatment?
The entire mental health checklist applies here. That includes both emotional and physical support. Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Get involved: Your partner should be receiving ongoing professional support, but that doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Offer to talk over different treatment options, ask to speak with the therapist, and help your partner maintain a pill schedule if any are prescribed.
- Sometimes people suffer from depression and are not aware of it. If you think that your partner is experiencing PPD, encourage her to get professional help.
- Maintain a routine: Having a routine is one of the things new parents miss most. It is important to introduce a routine soon after giving birth. Even if it is not perfect or particularly strict, try to reintroduce normalcy. Make sure your partner eats, sleeps, pumps milk, and even sees friends as part of your new routine.
- Don’t try to fix a problem: Your ultimate goal is to support your partner. Rationalizing a situation has a time and place and this might not be it. Listen, comfort, validate, and lend a shoulder. Don’t be the hero you think your partner deserves, but the one she needs right now.
- Encourage your partner to share: Many women feel shame in their sadness in a time that is supposed to be joyous, and therefore refrain from sharing their pain. Allow your partner to express her feelings, and listen when she does (even if you have heard it already).
- Check things off her list: If your partner is usually in charge of dinner, order in. If your partner is the one who cleans, grab a mop! Any source of stress you can eliminate from your partner’s daily routine is helpful. Nothing is too small.
- Don’t take it personally: Remember that a lot of what is happening in your relationship doesn’t have much to do with you. If your partner experiences postpartum depression, you might feel disconnected and discouraged. Lost libido, mood swings, and overall sadness are just some of the symptoms. It is not because of you, and does not reflect on the strength of your relationship. Even though it’s easy to back away right now, make sure that you stay close, show affection, and support your partner through the process. Remind yourself that this is temporary.
And… how about you?
Having said all that, there is just one more thing to add – partners are not immune to postpartum depression. Actually, approximately 10% of partners show symptoms of depression during the first year of having a baby. It is important that you take care of your health as you support your partner. Be aware of your own limitations, and don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help from family, friends, and a professional. If you want to consult a clinician about you or your partner, Antidote Health’s board-certified doctors are waiting to chat with you.