How To Help Your Partner Through Post Natal Depression

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Postnatal depression (PND) is hard. It can range from mild to debilitating and has an affect on everyone, not just Mum. Dad’s can feel helpless and a little frustrated and other kids in the family will usually cop some of the brunt as well.

Partners, family and friends can all have an important role in a woman’s recovery from PND. Having a baby and PND both place great stress on relationships and a woman with postnatal depression may withdraw from everyone, including her baby and partner. The support of family members, especially her partner, is crucial in helping her recover.

Mum and baby’s relationship during postnatal depression

A mother with PND tends to withdraw from everyone, including her baby. This is a symptom of the disorder and certainly doesn’t make her a ‘bad’ mother. Some folks think that bonding between the mother and child has to happen within the first few days or weeks of birth or it won’t happen at all. This is simply not true.

The relationship between a mother and her baby is an organic process. Once the depression lifts, the mother will be able to once again feel her full range of emotions and start to enjoy her baby. In the meantime, she might need some extra help from family and friends.

Relationship stress and postnatal depression

Postnatal depression can put an enormous strain on any relationship, even when the partner is patient, loving and supportive. Many couples battling PND think that their relationship has completely broken down, especially where the woman with PND has withdrawn from her partner. Generally, this is not the case, since most relationships return to normal once the depression lifts.

Top suggestions for a couple dealing with PND include:

  • Find out as much information as you can about PND.
  • Check out the great tips from beyondblue for new Mums.
  • Try to recognise that PND may be causing relationship problems, not the other way around.
  • Postpone any major life decisions, such as separating, while under the grip of PND.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Try not to take each other’s moods or criticisms too personally.
  • Seek out useful stress management techniques, such as exercise or meditation.
  • To prevent arguments and resentments, talk about sharing the household duties and who is supposed to do what.
  • Try to arrange at least an occasional night out together, away from the baby.
  • Seek professional help.

If you’re partner has PND, try to:

  • Be patient.
  • Check out the great tips from beyondblue for new Dads and partners to best support an expectant or new mother.
  • Encourage your partner to talk about her feelings.
  • Accept that her feelings are genuine and don’t trivialise them by telling her to ‘get over it’.
  • Try to understand her point of view.
  • Don’t take her negative feelings or criticisms personally.
  • Limit visitors if she doesn’t feel like socialising.
  • Enlist the aid of other family members to help around the house, if and when they can, including with babysitting.
  • Tell her often that you love her.
  • Show her you love her with cuddles, baby care and housework.
  • Don’t try to turn every cuddle into sex.
  • If you are worried, encourage her to see a doctor.
  • Go to the doctor yourself for information and advice, if your partner initially refuses to go.

Fathers can also develop PND

A recent British study found that around three per cent of new fathers are prone to PND, particularly if their partner or wife is depressed. In families where one of the parents already has a child or children from a previous relationship, the rate of PND in fathers rises to around seven per cent.

Suggestions for family and friends

  • Ways you can help a loved one who has PND include:
  • Find out as much information as you can about PND.
  • Check out the great tips from beyondblue for family and friends to best support an expectant or new mother.
  • Be patient and understanding.
  • Ask the couple how you can help.
  • Offer to babysit.
  • Offer to help around the house.
  • Let the mother know you are there for her, even if she doesn’t feel like talking.
  • Appreciate that the father may also be emotionally affected by the demands and challenges of new parenthood.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing feelings of depression or Postnatal Depression contact beyondblue for support, advice and an action plan. For further advice and assistance you can also find resources on our Important Hotlines and Websites post. 

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