About 80 percent of all women who deliver a baby will develop a mild case of depression known as the “baby blues.”
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.
- May have periods of crying.
Postpartum depression is a condition that lasts for more than two weeks and occurs in 10 to 20 percent of all mothers after delivery.
- Thoughts of inadequacy.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Disconnected feelings from your baby.
- Thoughts of suicide.
Postpartum psychosis is a more severe condition and occurs in one to two women out of every 1,000 births.
- Abrupt mood changes.
Postpartum Depression Resources
Women’s Health – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Medline Plus – National Institutes of Health
How Can Partners Help Women Overcome Postpartum Depression?
Partners can be important lifelines for women suffering from depression after pregnancy. Partners should be on the alert for characteristic symptoms:
- Feelings of sadness and worthlessness.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Changes in appetite.
- Excessive exhaustion.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
Tips for partners and friends of new mothers:
- Remember that postpartum depression is a real illness. Your partner is coping with tremendous changes in her life and her body.
- Your support is vital in the recovery process. She may think she will never get through this. You can offer her understanding and reassurance.
- Do not judge your partner's feelings or reactions. Do not offer solutions that she is in no mood to hear. Instead, listen and sympathize.
- Be consistent in offering your support and understanding and encourage her to take some time for herself. Mothers who try to be "the best" or "perfect" are most likely to become burned out.
- Offer help without being asked or needed. Take on more responsibility around the house. More than likely, laundry is piling up, dishes need washing, and floors need sweeping. If you do just a few chores, your partner may feel less overwhelmed.
- Care for the baby for a few hours, so the new mother can take a long bath, a walk or read for a while.
- If your partner or friend is unwilling to care for baby or talking about suicide, seek immediate professional help.
Take time for yourself. After all, you are learning new responsibilities, too. You may start to feel drained if you are trying to manage everything at once. You may even feel negative about the situation for a while, which is a normal part of the adjustment process and will pass.
Helping Your Partner with Postpartum Depression (PPD)
The postpartum adjustment for all family members is often a frightening and confusing experience. A happy and joyful event, the welcoming of a newborn into your family, may also be a source of stress and anxiety during this time of overwhelming change.
You may be the first one to recognize that your partner is exhibiting signs of a postpartum anxiety or depression and you will become her life-line toward treatment and support. PPD often inhibits the mothers’ ability to adequately care for herself and your baby. She has no control over her negative self-doubt, fears and emotional upset. This is why it is essential for you to provide the family leadership needed for mother and baby’s health and safety.
Help is available through your family physician, the OB/GYN who delivered your baby, or the baby’s pediatrician. Reach out and ask for help. It is only a phone call or e-mail away. It may take some time for the combination of medication and psychotherapy to work effectively to control the symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression. Here is what you can do to help your partner until she feels like herself again:
Be Empathetic: Show love and compassion, not anger or impatience.
Be Non-judgmental: Reassure, don’t criticize.
Be Observant: Report what you observe to the professionals.
Be Aware: Of your partner’s concerns and feelings.
Be Available: Be present and actively involved with your newborn.
Be Patient: This will go away. It will get better.
Be Collaborative: Work toward shared goals.
Be A Father: Active interest and participation prevents isolation.
The leadership you provide for your family during this difficult adjustment will empower all of you toward health, happiness and strong family relationships.