Being new parents calls for new demands on a daily basis. There aren’t enough hours during the day where you can relax and do the stuff you used to do before you had kids, and it becomes even more complicated when your partner is diagnosed with Postnatal Depression (PND). It can be very difficult for new mothers to adjust to a lifestyle post-pregnancy. It can also be very hard to determine whether or not you’re helping your partner in getting through PND.
Although you feel responsible in cheering them up, you can only do so much in your role as a new parent, so it’s really important you speak to your doctor or a health professional in caring for someone with PND. Otherwise, all you can do is show love and support in this difficult time.
There are a lot of concerns surrounding PND, and not many people realise how caring for someone with the disorder can impact their life in such a way. Often times, we feel pressured into fixing up someone’s low mood or showering them with things that used to make them happy. As with anyone suffering from mental illness, it’s really important to understand that your partner may not be feeling themselves when they suffer from PND. Sometimes we’ll feel guilty for having them feel this way but just remember you’ll be spending most of your time reassuring them you’re not leaving them behind.
There are a couple of ways to show support and care for your partner.
Show support when it comes to treatment
When it comes to something medical-related, this can make your partner feel uncomfortable and reluctant in taking any further medications or therapy to help her condition of PND. It’s important to show up to all doctors appointments and know when she has to take prescribed medication. Being involved when it comes to her treatment for PND can help your partner feel safe and comforted at all times. Furthermore, it can also help her realise how much support she’s getting through this tough journey battling a mental illness.
When it comes to attending all doctors appointments, always stay curious and find out any important information you need to know about the medication (dosage, side effects etc) and learn more facts on PND. This will help you be aware of your partner’s condition and what to do if any problems arise when it comes to treatment.
Provide emotional support for your partner
Even if you don’t know how she feels or have the right words to say, always be there to comfort your partner. You being there for her means more than you know so do your best to have conversations with her even if she isn’t in the right state of mind to be happy like she used to be. Of course, there will be some challenging times where you would like to withdraw from her presence so do your best to not seem like you’re disinterested or irritated. Because of her strong dependence on you, you will be spending lots of your time reassuring her that everything is okay and that she shouldn’t be constantly feeling down on herself.
During the time where she has PND, avoid making major life decisions (buying a house, taking out a loan etc) to avoid more added stress. It’s important to prioritise her recovery rather than taking on new major assets and events that could potentially make her feel more isolated and depressed. Never let her feel discouraged in talking to you about her thoughts and feelings. Let her open up at her own pace.
Help around with cooking and household duties
You might’ve been used to walking in the house after work, smelling a gorgeous pot-roast in the kitchen. With your partner having PND, this may not be the case anymore. As she is unable to do much cooking and cleaning around the house, aim to do those things while she slowly recovers from PND. If there comes a situation where she feels bad for you that you’re taking on more duties around the house, reassure her that doing more chores has made you realise how satisfying it is to be surrounded by a clean environment, and how thankful you are you’re saving her from stress in her life. We understand cooking may be exhausting for some partners so having a cheeky take-out every few nights a week can help you relax a little from cooking duties.
Take care of yourself
It’s very stressful and challenging to take care of your partner when they have PND. With added responsibilities, while trying to take care of the baby, most people will feel overwhelmed with this situation. It’s okay to feel extremely exhausted at times but if it’s gotten to the point where you’re feeling a little low about the situation, it helps to know that there are people out there willing to support you through this tough time.
If you feel like juggling a job and taking care of your partner with PND almost feels impossible, speak to your employer about your situation and arrange a way in which you can spend more time at home. This could mean having days where you can work from home and working fewer hours. Your well-being is just as important so if you feel unsupported, the rest of the family or your closest friends can help you. Also remember there are counsellors out there willing to hear you out when it comes to your problems. Getting professional help is always a good idea.
There are some danger signs you should look out for when taking care of your partner with PND. Follow your gut instinct if you feel like you or your child may be put at risk if:
- She says statements like, “You’re better off without me” etc
- Wanting to harm herself or the baby
- Having extreme feelings of despair
- Show signs of risk-taking behaviour, having bizarre thoughts (something out of the ordinary)
- Withdrawing from everyone; avoiding any social contact
- Mood swings become more extreme
If you feel like you or your baby are in danger, do not hesitate to call 000. Otherwise, speak to your local doctor or health professional if your partner is showing any mild symptoms from the list above.
Overall, taking care of someone with PND is not an easy task. You may feel like you’re failing at times but just remember you’re doing your best to provide as much support to your partner. Caring and loving someone with mental illness can be disheartening and you will find yourself struggling to cope sometimes. Just remember that if you have supportive family and friends, you will get through this hurdle much easier if you seek the help of other people rather than do everything on your own.