A new baby brings many physical and emotional challenges for parents. ‘Baby blues’ generally go away after a few months but some women suffer from deeper and continuous depression that takes much longer to cure. More than 1 in every 10 women experience postpartum depression within a year of giving birth.
Role of the partner in PPD recovery
Studies show that in India and other Asian countries, postpartum depression is often triggered by gender-related attitudes. While the focus remains on safe delivery during pregnancy, it shifts to child care afterward and the mother’s well-being is ignored. Social stigma and shame also deter a lot of women from seeking help. Spouses can have a tremendous impact by helping them accept their condition and providing the necessary psychological and physical care.With proper physical and emotional support, self-help measures and therapy, most women can
make a full recovery. So, it’s very important that you know what to expect and do if your wife is suffering from PPD.
It’s normal for new mothers to be physically and emotionally exhausted. But PPD can cause continued sadness, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, anxiety or hopelessness. Irritability, anger and frustration are also common symptoms. Depression may lead your partner to lose interest and withdraw from you or the family.
How can you help?
1. Don’t invalidate her emotions and broach the subject with sensitivity.
Postpartum depression is a serious mental condition and you should never dismiss it. Your wife’s fear, anxiety and sadness is real and you need to react sensitively to it. Arguing against her illness won’t help. You also need to help her accept what she’s suffering from and assure that she isn’t being judged.
2. Listen, appreciate and offer solutions and support.
Often listening to someone’s problems and providing emotional support goes a long way in curing depression. Do enough research, consult a doctor and present multiple recovery options to your wife. Medication is often unnecessary if proper counseling and care are given.
3. Help her out in household work and baby care.
Motherhood is very stressful in the beginning and a new mom has to juggle many duties. Taking care of the baby, breastfeeding and doing household chores at the same time is difficult for a woman suffering from PPD. Ease her workload at home by cooking or taking on household duties. You should also try to take greater care of the baby to ensure that she gets enough rest.
4. Don’t lose patience and don’t pressurize her to take medication or counseling.
Having a spouse suffering from depression at this time is often trying. But don’t give up and don’t lose patience. Treat postpartum depression and you would treat any other disease. If your wife is unwilling to take medication or therapy, don’t force her into it. It will only reinforce her feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
5. Make sure she eats and sleeps well.
Rest and a healthy diet is imperative for a PPD patient. Those who suffer from depression often lose their appetite. They also experience insomnia. Try to create a stress-free home environment and help your wife eat well. Take
care of the baby at night so that she can sleep enough.
6. Create opportunities for simple and positive interaction with the baby.
Mothers with postpartum depression can have negative feelings towards their baby. They often feel that they are bad mothers. Letting the mother bond in a positive way with the baby is important. Give the baby to your partner when it is resting, calm or asleep. Admiring the baby together can also be a good exercise.
7. Look after your own physical and mental well-being.
Taking on a big chunk of extra responsibility to help your spouse recover will surely put a lot of strain on you. You need to make sure that you are not ignoring your own mental and physical health. Only when you are in the right frame of mind and body can you support and help your partner.