Up to 20 percent of American women develop postpartum depression, a mental health condition in which mothers develop severe mood swings, anxiety, and other intense depressive symptoms after giving birth. It’s more than just “baby blues,” which go away a few weeks after childbirth. Left untreated,postpartum depression can last for months.
If your partner has some of these symptoms or has been diagnosed with postpartum depression, here’s what you can do to help her and your family. The problem is real, serious and, thankfully, treatable.
1. Recognize That Your Partner Has a Diagnosable Condition
Postpartum depression is more than just feeling irritable from lack of sleep when caring for a new baby. It is a diagnosable medical condition that can alter the way a woman feels towards her baby, her day-to-day life, her self-worth, and even her spouse or partner. So, it’s helpful if you validate her struggles, telling her that you cannot truly understand what she is feeling but that you want to help. Be reassured of your love for her even if she is struggling to show it at this time and remind her that you appreciate all she does for you and your family.
2. Help Your Partner Get the Treatment She Needs
If she will not–or cannot–get help on her own from your family doctor, a trusted friend, or counselor with expertise in postpartum depression, get help for her as soon as possible. The longer you both languish in the very real symptoms of postpartum depression, the longer recovery may take. Tell her that it’s okay to experience these feelings and that professional treatment and support groups are beneficial–not signs of weakness.
3. Learn About Postpartum Depression
Knowledge empowers people to make right decisions about their health and their healthcare. The more you know about postpartum depression, the more equipped you’ll be to help your significant other. Remember that her feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, and even apathy toward your newborn are part of this common mood disorder. In fact, it may help you to speak with your PCP or a counselor as you navigate the weeks to months it may take for your partner’s depression to subside. You will receive real tools to help both you and your family.
4. Offer Real, Practical Help to Your Partner
Don’t simply ask what you can do to make her feel better. Take over some chores which normally fall under her care and supervision. Do the grocery shopping. Take the baby out for a ride or a walk. Pick up a prepared meal. Arrange for childcare so you can get some time together out of the house. Helpingyour partner in this waytakes stress off her so she can focus on resting, working through her depression in therapy, and engaging in activities that help her feel like herself again.
5. Call Your PCP, Your Partner’s OB/GYN, or Emergency Services if Symptoms Worsen
If you believe your partner is thinking about self-harm (or hurting the baby), please don’t wait. Call emergency services at 911, or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988. For non-emergency situations pertaining to postpartum depression, you or your partner can call the Postpartum Support International hotline at 1(800)944-4773 to connect with a trained professional who can connect you to local support resources.
6. Men Can Experience Postpartum Depression
Studies have shown that fathers can also experience postpartum depression after the birth of a child. Risk factors include having a history of depression, financial struggles, or experiencing relationship problems. So, men must also take care of their mental/emotional health leading up to and after their child’s birth by acknowledging problems and getting the treatment they may need.
Real Help from Show Low Family Clinic
At Show Low Family Clinic, we understand how difficult postpartum depression can be for families. Our founder and Family Nurse Practitioner Sharon Zell cares deeply about her patient and offers individualized care to each patient to treat the unique set of symptoms they face.
Show Low Family Clinic is based in Arizona and Sharon Zell, NP-C is licensed to treat patients living in both Arizona and Washington state.