5 things your spouse wants you to know about postpartum depression

Supporting a spouse with postpartum depression or anxiety is an important role. We are here to help.

The adjustment to parenthood can be a roller coaster. There are hopefully lots of laughs and excitement, but likely fear and uncertainty. If you have a partner with postpartum depression, this stage can be all the more confusing and overwhelming. Here is some information that may help you if your spouse has a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.

  1. She is worried you will think she is a bad mom.

    This reality of motherhood is not what she envisioned and hoped for before becoming a mom. She might be worried this experience isn’t living up to your expectations, either. She is likely experiencing a lot of self-doubt and self-blame. The feedback she gets from you (both in your words and in your actions) can either exacerbate that self-doubt or be a reservoir of positivity for her to draw from. The depression is distorting her ability to see herself and her role accurately; your eyes can be a healthy window into her strengths and involvement as a new mom.

  2. She is worried you will think she is a bad wife.

    She is very aware she’s not doing all the things she used to do. Whether that’s physical intimacy that has disappeared or just general lack of interest in conversations and activities she used to share with you. She might be worried that you are angry or disappointed in her. A marriage is never 50-50 as one partner is always giving in different ways than another. And here is a season where you can provide her with great assurance that you are happy to continue to give in any and all ways you can (and find new ones, each day), and in doing so, allow her to focus on taking care of herself and receiving the support she deserves.

  3. You might have PPD, too.

    If your partner is depressed, there is a good chance you are, too. Up to half of all partners of women with PPD will experience PPD as well. Here are some things that put partners at risk of PPD:

    • Disrupted sleep and other changes in wellness habits (nutrition, exercise)

    • Change in hormones (this has been shown to occur in all parents, not just the birth mom)

    • Relationship stress with spouse

    • Lack of social support or help from friends and family

    • Economic or employment stress

    • A feeling of being excluded from the bond between the mother and baby

    • Personal history of depression, anxiety, or substance use

  4. She really wishes you understood what she was going through

    A mom with PPD often feels very alone in her experience (which is why finding a support group is beneficial to many women). While she knows that you can never truly understand her experience, she would love to let you spend a day in her head or skin so that you would know what she is going through. Many spouses try to empathize by sharing their own stresses by saying things like, “I am tired, too!” For many women, these statements feel like a minimization of their experiences. It can serve to drive a wedge of isolation, as she feels like no one gets it. Your partner may find it helpful if you just provide a gentle, non-judgemental ear where she is free to share whatever she can verbalize about her experience.

  5. She can’t ask for the help she needs because she doesn’t know what will help her feel better.

She is likely as confused as you are. She is making what feels like the best decisions or the only choices she feels capable of. But depression and anxiety can function like a cloud, casting a shadow that distorts your ability to see clearly. From you, this requires creativity, patience, and an ability to see through the clouds to discover what she truly needs. This is where a therapist or other health professional might be an important addition to your support network, to be able to add new tools and resources for wellness.

If you are ready for postpartum counseling for you and / or your spouse, call to obtain more information or to schedule an appointment. 732-977-0375

Jaime Malone