If your partner is diagnosed with postnatal depression, it’s very important to help her get professional support. There are also many other things you can do to support your partner emotionally and practically.  

Postnatal depression: watching for the signs

Having a new baby is a joyful and exciting experience, but it’s normal to have some emotional downs as well as ups after birth. For example, it’s normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed as you and your partner learn how to look after your new baby – probably while coping with a lack of sleep and much less time to yourselves.

But postnatal depression is more than stress or tiredness – it lasts longer than a few days and can be a serious mental health problem. This is why it’s important to watch out for the signs in your partner.

If your partner has postnatal depression, you might notice changes in her emotions and thinking, behaviour and social life, and general physical wellbeing. If these changes go on for longer than two weeks and get in the way of daily life, you need to help your partner get professional advice.

Getting professional support for postnatal depression

Postnatal depression takes a long time to go away on its own. Often it doesn’t go away without professional treatment. 
There are many people who can help your partner with postnatal depression:

You can also call the PANDA National Helpline on 1300 726 306 for counselling and assistance. The Helpline’s hours are Monday-Friday, 10 am-5 pm.

Some women might not want to seek help because they’re worried about what other people might think. They might also want to keep up the appearance of having everything under control. These are all normal reactions. Reassure your partner that you’ll be there to support her.

Supporting your partner with postnatal depression

In addition to helping your partner get professional support, you can give her support in lots of other ways as well.

Emotional support
It’s normal for new mothers to feel emotional as they go through the physical and practical changes of pregnancy and birth. You can give your partner a lot of support just by listening to her and reassuring her that it’s normal to feel emotional at this time.

Also, looking after a new baby is a big job. It’s demanding and exhausting, especially if your partner is getting up in the night to breastfeed. So it’s really important to let your partner know that you appreciate what a great job she’s doing. You can also acknowledge that she might be tired. For example, you might say, ‘Thank you for caring for our baby so well. I know you’re really tired and I appreciate everything you’re doing’.

Practical support
All new parents need practical help and support, especially parents who are experiencing postnatal depression.

You can do a lot to help your partner in practical ways during this time. This might include taking on extra housework, making sure you have plenty of groceries in the house and doing extra baby care jobs. If you can do household chores without being asked to, it means your partner doesn’t have to worry about them at all.

It’s also important that you’re around as much as possible to keep your partner company.

If family and friends offer to cook meals, do some washing for you or mow the lawn, say ‘Yes, please!’. You can also let people know that your family needs extra support right now and suggest what they can do to help. People often appreciate being asked for something specific.

Looking after yourself
You might be focused on your partner’s wellbeing, but it’s also important to take time for yourself as well. If you’re emotionally and physically well, you’ll be in better shape to support your partner.

For example, you could do some physical activity by taking your baby out for a walk in the pram. This also gives your partner a little break – and possibly the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Eating healthy food helps you with the energy you need to care for your baby and support your partner. It can be hard to find time to cook healthy meals, so if friends and family offer to cook meals for you, accept them. You can buy prepared meals, soups and salads for the days when time is short. And if you have time, it’s a good idea to prepare and freeze some healthy meals for the days and weeks ahead.

Men can also experience postnatal depression. Looking after yourself can help to reduce this risk. Read more about postnatal depression and men.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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