Postpartum Depression: What is it?
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is something men all over the world are having to deal with. “My wife and I just had our child but she seems down or distant all the time”. If you are reading this and about to become a father yourself, there is a chance your significant other could have postpartum depression after giving birth and it is more common than you might think. Roughly 10-15% of women have postpartum depression after childbirth. To be able to be supportive with Postpartum depression, you first need to be able to spot the signs of it.
Postpartum Depression Signs
These signs are some of the more common indicators of postpartum depression. They are not a one size fits all type of situation though. Some women may only have one or two of these signs, and some may have all. That is why it is important to be able to recognize most of the common indicators.
Feeling Hopeless During Postpartum Depression
This is one of the more common indicators of postpartum depression. Your spouse may feel like her life is hopeless or that she is stuck in a never-ending rut. That nothing is ever going to get better and this is her entire life now.
Things she might say (heading three)
“I cannot keep doing this”
“It isn’t getting any better”
“Being a mom is not what I expected it would be”
“I regret doing this”
Anger or Rage outburst
This is one of the more serious indicators of PPD. Some women feel irritable most of the time when they are going through postpartum depression. Little things such as the baby crying or accidentally being woken up during a nap can trigger these anger outbursts. The reason why is because the irritability has been building up all day until it reaches a point where she cannot control it and she must have some type of release.
Disconnected Relationships caused by Postpartum Depression
Often this is directed at the significant other, but it can be towards the child or even other relationships as well. If she used to call her mother and talk for an extended period every day and now does not, this could be a sign of disconnection towards relationships.
Things she might say
“I do not feel like talking right now”
“The baby hates me”
“She doesn’t even want me”
These are some of the most common signs of postpartum depression. However, this is not an all-inclusive list. There can be other basic signs such as low self-worth, frequent crying, anxiety attacks, and more such as suicidal thoughts. It is important to be able to recognize the signs before you can try and help or be supportive. Now let us get to how we as fathers can help our spouses.
Postpartum Depression Support Techniques
Listen and Validate
This is a skill that many fathers (including myself) are often lacking in. Whenever my significant other tries to communicate her problems, I have a bad habit of instantly trying to solve them. Even worse, sometimes I try to get her to “see the brighter side of things” or show her it could always be worse, and I have realized I just come off as not supportive sometimes.
Looking back now I can see how sometimes she thought I was simply dismissing her feelings. To me, I was just trying to help her solve the solution but often our spouses do not communicate with us to have us give them a solution. It is simply just a way to vent or feel validated in their feelings. This is a skill I am still working on to this day and I would like to think I am better at it than I was a year ago.
Let Her Sleep!
This is one that I feel like I should not have to say but in my experience with other dads… It needs to be said. None of us can even begin to imagine the pain or exhaustion of childbirth or carrying a child. After the child is delivered and you are home take the reigns for a little bit. It is okay if you really do not know what you are doing, none of us did when it first started for us.
You should be taking turns waking up with the child at night. Many fathers say, “well I have to get up early for work”. That may be the case and there is no denying that but even if you just take the first wake up and leave the rest to her, it is still something. If nothing else you are showing her that you are there to help and care about taking your share of the responsibility. When you are off work, try taking on the majority of the nighttime wake-ups so she can still sleep. It does not hurt to help with what she typically does either so she can get some sleep, which brings us to our next point…
Help Out Around the House
In a way, this can tie into letting her sleep because sometimes when the baby is asleep, she may feel this is her chance to cook, clean the house, catch up laundry, etc. You should be stepping up to take on more of this role (even if you do already). Load/unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, wipe the kitchen counters. She may not let you do it all but anything you can do to help will give her more time to rest. Even if she does not sleep, she needs to have her time as well. As should you after all you are not just a husband or a father.
Learn Her Love Language
This is one I cannot recommend enough. Different people want different types of love or affection displayed to them. Gary Chapman has a book titled The Five Love Languages. This can help you figure out what type of “love language” your spouse responds too. I had this book referred to me a couple of years ago and have read it during trying times. Now some men may think this is not needed and that is perfectly fine. However, if you are seeking some advice for your relationship, this book will help.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
This is another issue that some men have. They get to focus on how to help their spouse with signs of postpartum depression and help take care of their child that they forget to take care of themselves as well. Physically and mentally you should be taking care of yourself. Physically is probably the easier of the two. Keep up with your hygiene and exercise in some way (if you like to). Mentally is a little more challenging.
Sometimes we or our spouse are just mentally exhausted. It is important to let your mind rest as well as your body. Do things you enjoy when there is an opening to. If you like to read, block out fifteen minutes a day to pick up a book. This is just one example, but it can be applied to nearly any hobby that is not too time-consuming.
Take Care of Your Relationship
Make it a point to have time as a couple. When you are not working or when you are not “mom and dad”. Spend time together as a couple even if it is just laying in bed or on the couch watching a movie and eating some popcorn. It seems sometimes couples get lost in being parents, working, maintaining somewhat of a social life, and forget to take care of their relationship. Find a babysitter from friends or family or even you can go to the many different options online to find a place such as care.com, which is a website that can match you with a babysitter that comes with reviews and a background check that has been completed as well.
In the End
Ultimately, the goal is to help and support your spouse not to take on everything on your own. It will take time to find a correct balance of helping/supporting, taking care of yourself, taking care of the baby, the relationship as well, and making sure as a team everything gets done that needs to be done. It does not always have to be an even split of the work 50/50. Some days she will give 90 and you give 10. Other days it will be vise versa. The point is to just be there to support each other and help each other as having a newborn, especially the first time is one of the toughest things that either of you will accomplish in your life. It is much easier to do it as a team and together than it is to be working against each other.