Many women who receive counseling for postpartum depression and anxiety are in a committed relationship. Their partners are often very supportive and concerned about what she’s experiencing and want to help. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how.
Here are some ways you can support your partner if she’s struggling emotionally.
- Just listen; don’t try to fix the situation.
- Help out around the house: fold laundry, do the dishes, help with nighttime feedings, etc. Problem-solve ways that each of you can get a minimum of 4-5 uninterrupted hours of sleep a night. (This is crucial for both of you.)
- Find a support group in your area. Search on postpartum.net for local or online groups. Tap into professional resources.
- Find a doctor and therapist who are trained to deal with PMADs. Ask your pediatrician, family doctor, or OB-GYN for recommendations.
- Be prepared for a long recovery with setbacks along the way. Postpartum depression or anxiety is not something that can be fixed overnight.
- Continue treatment even when she starts feeling better. The chance of relapse is much higher if treatment is stopped too quickly.
- Get help for you and your family. Don’t let the stigma of depression keep you from sharing with others what’s going on.
- Engage your support system by asking friends and family to bring meals, stop by for visits if your partner is feeling isolated, etc.
- Love your partner. Be tender, be supportive. Tell her daily that you love her and she is a good mother.
- Be her lifeline. You may be the one who needs to make the call about whether she needs medical attention.
- Ask questions. Check in with your partner frequently and ask for details about how she is feeling.
- Take care of yourself. Be aware that you are also at risk for depression (1 in 10 dads–or more– develop postpartum depression or other mood disorders). Make sure you eat right, exercise, and get as much sleep as possible.
- Comparing your partner to other women
- Getting angry with your partner
- Distancing yourself
- Trying to handle everything on your own
- Trying to talk her out of her depression
- Ignoring the depression
- Not being open about your feelings
- Not making her health and the wellbeing of your family your #1 priority
- Judging her feelings
- “I know you are doing the best you can and you did not cause this.”
- “I love you and I’m here with you. I will not leave you.”
- “We will get through this together. You are not alone.”
- “You are a good mother. The baby loves you. Look at the way the baby looks at you.”
- “You seem like you don’t feel like yourself. Can we reach out together for some professional help?”
Dads, partners, and other support people are a crucial part of the recovery process from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. If you need some help walking through this, let me know. I’d be happy to help!