Having a newborn baby can trigger many emotions for first-time parents. Parents can often go from joy and happiness to fear and stress in a quick second. As a first-time mom or dad, intense emotions are normal to experience.
However, if your partner is in a constant state of stress and anxiety – this can often lead to PPD (postpartum depression).
Many new moms will experience what’s typically known as “baby blues.” After childbirth, you may notice your partner experiencing crying spells, mood swings, anxiety and insomnia. This state of depression is only temporary, which may last for up to two weeks postpartum.
Yet, PPD is a more severe, long-lasting form of depression that can take hold of the mother after childbirth. If you think your partner has PPD, it’s important to learn how to support them during these difficult times.
Here are some ways dads can help with PPD.
1. Recognize the Signs
Spending time learning how the baby blues and PPD differ is crucial. Generally, PPD can occur four to six weeks after birth, and symptoms may include:
- Extreme sadness
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Decreased appetite
- Low energy
- Intrusive thoughts and feelings
- Anxiety or irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
No one truly knows the exact reasons why PPD occurs in women. Often, many factors come into play, such as nutritional deficiencies, genetics and environmental stressors.
However, it’s important to watch for these signs or symptoms and how long they go on for your partner. If you think she has PPD, consider notifying her of her change in personality or behavior.
Opening up the conversation in a non-accusatory way is significant in the matter. Otherwise, your partner might be sensitive or feel offended toward how you mention it. Your partner feels vulnerable, so it matters how you say it.
For example, suppose your partner enjoys daily walks with you and the baby but hasn’t been feeling up to it in the last week or two. In this instance, you could mention, “I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to go on walks with our baby and me lately. How have you been feeling?”
Often, this will encourage your partner to open up and tell you how she’s feeling.
2. Empower Your Partner to Seek Medical Care
Your partner could be hesitant to seek out professional treatment. Yet, you can reassure her that you’ll be there to support her every step of the way once she’s ready.
You can offer to schedule the appointment with her OB/GYN and ensure you’re present at the doctor’s office. If there’s something that seems off, ensure you speak up. You know your partner better than anyone else.
Therefore, you must let the doctor know what’s happening at home.
Avoid saying anything about the cost of the treatment, even if it’s out of your budget. She needs to know her health matters and that you’ll do anything to help her get better.
3. Offer Help Without Asking
If you truly want to support your partner, avoid asking if you can help. Instead, make a plan for how you’re going to provide support. That way, it makes it easier for your partner to accept it.
PPD causes extreme fatigue, so she might not have the energy she used to before the mental illness occurred. And even though she’s trying her best, it may be difficult for her to ask for help.
Therefore, it’s up to you to step it up and give it your all. For instance, if you see the laundry piling up, a sink full of dishes or the floor needs vacuuming, dive in and tackle it.
Doing these things without hesitation will help her feel better and less guilty when she doesn’t have to ask for your help.
4. Support Her Decision With Breastfeeding
Women experience tremendous pressure to breastfeed their babies. While breastfeeding is ideal for the baby, it might not be for the mom if it’s compromising her mental health.
Sometimes breastfeeding can help or worsen PPD. However, medication to cope with PPD and breastfeeding don’t mix well.
Whether she decides to breastfeed or use formula, supporting her decision will go a long way. You can also go as far as to participate in the feeding process.
For example, if you feed your child formula, you can learn how to prep the bottle and feed even for overnight feedings.
Or, if your child breastfeeds, you can help by creating a calming and comfortable environment.
Remember, your actions will demonstrate your support for both the wife and child.
5. Build a Support System
A poor support system is often a contributing factor to postpartum depression. While you are your partner’s primary support system, having others jump in can provide the extra help needed.
Such support includes asking nearby family and friends for help. If it’s within your financial means, consider hiring a doula, night nurse, housekeeper or a meal delivery service.
Asking for others’ support will ease the stress on you and your partner. Plus, it also ensures you both have time to take care of yourselves.
The only thing that matters is that you continue to involve yourself in the support. Make sure you acknowledge her feelings and reassure her that everything will be okay.
Your presence is important and she needs you even when she tells you she’s fine.
Focus on Getting Back to Normalcy
No matter how mild or severe your partner’s PPD is, ensure you take on the role of helping your family feel better. Once they start treatment, they may not start feeling better until six weeks have passed.
It takes some time before you will start to see results. But until then, focus on taking steps to help your partner. Know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Your partner will certainly appreciate your support in the future as soon as they’re feeling back to their normal self.