Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders affect the whole family.
Bringing home a new baby is a transitional period and while families are settling in, partners may feel strained or even overwhelmed. The best defense for postpartum depression is support and with the strength and patience of you can overcome this difficult period.
The physical and emotional recovery period can seem like a long road to navigate, but you'll stay on a good path when you and your partner stick to a plan of healthcare, support, and communication. Since these feelings aren't exclusively for the postpartum mother, it's a conversation that more new parents should feel comfortable having.
How can partners develop postpartum anxiety or depression?
For many spouses welcoming a new baby, the restructure of daily routines and roles can be a real shock. Some partners develop feelings of inadequacy when they feel as if they can't comfort their baby with the ease that the other parent can. For others, a combination of sleeplessness and stress can drive a wedge between parents.
Postpartum depression is a hormonal imbalance for new mothers and some research has shown that this may be true in the paternal caregiver and partner as well. Some fathers experience a dip in testosterone following the birth of their child. When testosterone drops, it puts men at a significantly elevated risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders or symptoms.
How can a healing mom keep their partner feeling validated?
Postpartum anxiety can feel like a mystery diagnosis and that is even more true when it manifests in a spouse. Since depression and anxiety isn't just a passing phase, it should be treated like an injury that need attention. Finding balance is a great first step.
Balancing the Responsibilities
Whether your partner is struggling with too much on their plate or not enough, talking about ways to balance out baby care is a good starting point. Aside from only communicating about the responsibilities at hand, parents should find ways to talk about themselves, their day, and have conversations that aren't baby related.
This can help bring you and your partner back to feeling like yourselves and even if you're feeding a baby while you do it, you're working on your relationship daily with reminders of why you fell for each other in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is genuinely asking how the other is feeling and asking what they need. Everyone needs something and for new parents that can be as simple as a cup of tea or a much needed nap.
You aren't alone.
Seek the help of family, friends and loved ones. Reach out to your doctor, therapist, doula and childcare for guidance or help along the way. Most importantly, realize that developing postpartum anxiety and depression is not uncommon in new mothers or their partners.
Where there's balance, there are more opportunities to nourish your emotional and physical health during this big new chapter.