For many families, the birth of a new child is a time of joy although making the necessary adjustments for the new arrival is oftentimes not a stress free experience. Researchers have agreed that having a baby can have an adverse impact on the relationship of the parents. Even well-prepared expectant parents will undergo natural adjustments that can strain and prove even detrimental to the relationship. Sometimes the birth of a new child becomes even more complicated when the mother experiences postpartum depression (PPD). Despite this, the relationship between PPD and the effect it can have on the marital relationship is seldom spoken about primarily because the main focus is providing support for the mothers.
Postpartum depression is increasing
Postpartum depression has increasingly become a condition recognized to wreak havoc on new mothers and subsequently their families. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 20% of women experience some form of postpartum depression. Additional research indicates that 30% of women suffering from PPD actually experienced depression prior to becoming pregnant while another 40% were found to have symptoms of depression during their pregnancy. Furthermore, it was found that one in five of the women had thoughts of harming themselves. To underscore the significant risks that PPD represents it is important to note that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among women with PPD, highlighting the potential life altering familial impact of the disease.
Results of PPD
Previous research has shown that women suffering with PPD can either become overly confrontational and argumentative which has the potential for creating a hostile home environment or sometimes they can be reluctant to talk about their feelings with their significant others. Consequently, women who become withdrawn and isolated from their partners may do so for a variety of reasons. For example, they may be unable to articulate their feelings, they may feel a profound sense of hopelessness to the point of seeing no benefits to talking about it, they feel too ashamed or perhaps they feel their partners just would not understand.
When the mother experiences PPD it is often assumed that the current issues in the relationship has caused PPD. However, researchers now believe that the conflict in the relationship more likely stems from the symptoms of PPD and recommend that decisions about the relationship should not be made while the mother is experiencing the symptoms of PPD. In other words, when the mothers feel that they want to end the relationship, it’s more likely the illness talking as their interpretations of their circumstances and their ability to think from a reality based perspective during the depression may be significantly diminished.
Equally important is making sure that the fathers or spouses are equipped with the knowledge and the tools they need to best improve their situations and help their loved ones get back on track.
Following are tips for the fathers or partners of mothers experiencing PPD:
- Seek support from family and friends.
- Talk to others who have had a similar experience.
- Spend time with your new baby and siblings if applicable.
- Reach out to professionals such as the family doctor for additional support.
- Prioritize self-care and take time out for yourself.
- Accept that your life is going to be changed for a while.
- Don’t make decisions about your relationship during PPD.
- Be patient with yourself and your loved one.
- Don’t personalize attacks, realize it’s the illness talking.
- Be reassuring and encouraging to her.
- Be patient about engaging in sexual activity.
- Be prepared to help more with household, older children and new baby.