How to nurture wellbeing (hers and yours) as new parents.
Becoming a new parent is a wonderful, joyous occasion. Magic, even. Enormously daunting, also. Movies, books and well-meaning aunties don’t always mention that bit. Twenty per cent of women, and 10 per cent of men, admit they experience symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and parenthood.
The bare truth is that prenatal and postnatal depression is awful – it’s difficult to watch the one you love go from feeling like a put-together, successful adult to someone who feels like they just can’t cope. The good news is that early intervention leads to successful recovery. More good news? There are plenty of ways you can help your partner overcome PND.
Here are some expert-approved coping strategies that will help you support your partner’s mental wellbeing. And, some very useful info on what to do if PND befalls you.
How to be helpful when your partner has PND
First of all, new mums typically experience a big old crash in hormones in the first few weeks after delivering her baby. This not so delightful event can lead to what’s commonly know as the ‘baby blues’ and generally leaves her feeling sad and tearful for seemingly no apparent reason. Then, it passes. PND, on the other hand, has symptoms that include constant tearfulness, feelings of panic and anxiety, insomnia, changes to appetite, trouble bonding with the baby and feelings of doom or hopelessness that she cannot seem to shift – and that won’t go away without professional medical intervention.
Your partner might be scared to admit she’s feeling any of these things, in case it’s deemed as a reflection on her abilities as a mum (which just isn’t true). That’s why it’s especially important to take her seriously if she does pluck up the courage and mention it.
What to do from there:
1. Get a diagnosis. The first step is to encourage her to make an appointment with her doctor. Antidepressants or a course of counselling sessions might be prescribed.
2. Be patient. And kind. Which can be difficult when she’s struggling to be either of those with you. It’s important you maintain closeness and help each other out. Even though it’s hard to imagine better times in the depths of dealing with PND, this too shall pass. Stick with it, and stick together.
3. Be pro-active. This might be a toughie, but try and pre-empt doing tasks before she has to ask for them to be done. She’ll be struggling to think straight and finding it difficult to make decisions. Small acts of kindness, and her discovering the laundry pile has already been folded and put away, will make a bigger-than-you-realise difference.
4. Be positive. Remind her, often, how amazed and proud you are of how fantastically she’s doing a really tough job. And remind her that she’ll beat this PND and 100 per cent feel like herself again.
5. Give her space. She’ll be busy with baby so much of the time; she might even be back to work and trying to cope with PND too. Little moments of time to herself – preferably doing things that are good for her wellbeing like going for a walk with a friend or getting fresh air – will support her recovery.
What to do if you feel down:
You might have been waiting for months (or years) to become a dad. Then the baby finally arrives and, as it turns out, still needs mum roughly 99.9 per cent of the time – which might leave you feeling a bit helpless all over again.
Add the enormity of being responsible for a whole new person into the mix; financial stress; exhaustion from lack of sleep; and supporting the new mum who might be struggling with baby blues, sore boobs and recovering from childbirth and, well, it’s clear why lots of dads experience symptoms of postnatal depression too.
Maternal mental health isn’t as well documented and openly shared about as it should be; paternal depression perhaps even more so. The best thing you can do is act fast and seek help, rather than keep it to yourself – it won’t go away or ‘right itself’ without professional support and intervention. What to do:
1. Talk to someone about it. Your partner, a family member, an old friend, your doctor. The Samaritans. Pick a person and tell them how you’re feeling.
2. Have a strategy. Once you’ve opened up about it, options for treatment will be discussed from there – exercise, medication, counselling or other forms of therapy. Work with your doctor in deciding what will be the best course of action for you.
3. Stick with it. Often, one of the toughest parts of recovery is starting treatment and not feeling instantly better, happier or back to your old self. The simple fact is it will more than likely just take some time. While you’re waiting to get to that point (and to help you get there), focus on the small joys as the days go by – pinpointing the positives in every day can help lift your mood during the foggy-tired reality of life with a new baby.
4. Look after yourself. It’s one of the trickiest things for a new parent to do – find time for yourself when you’re juggling work, minding the baby, maintaining the home.
Exercise and sleep can have an impact on hormone levels and depression. It’s really tough to fit both in, but important that you do.
You might not have much time, but something as simple as a quick nap on the bus or train into work in the mornings (set the alarm on your phone to wake you up if you’re worried you’ll miss your station) and getting off a stop or two early to walk the rest of the way home at the end of the day will do you good.
A bit about Moment Health…
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
Download our App today