Advice to Postpartum Dads

pp dads1This is the advice and reassurance I always give in my practice to the partners of women suffering from post partum depression:

  1. Your partner’s illness is treatable. Don’t be afraid of it. Although there is still some stigma attached to it, more people now know about post partum depression than ever before, and if you talk about it with your doctor or another health care provider, he or she will know what you are talking about. Also, you might want to go to the website, which is run by men whose partners suffered from PND, or, run by postpartum Support International. Both are valuable resources that offer education and support to alleviate whatever anxieties you have about the condition.


  1. Make sure you get a referral to an expert where you live. This can be a psychiatrist, a physiologist, a GP or an obstetrician trained in the area of postpartum depression, but whoever it is you need to trust and feel comfortable with him or her.


  1. Don’t be impatient with the treatment process. It may take weeks if not months for your partner to recover. She may be irritable or depressed; she may have crying spells and be unpredictable. This is to be expected, but every week you will see positive changes and she will continue to feel better in the hands of an expert. You may need to go with your partner to talk to the doctor, because sometimes she may find it difficult to communicate openly and properly – not because she doesn’t want to, but because her depression can negatively impact her ability to do so.


  1. Don’t let your partner unilaterally discontinue treatment. Once the acute phase of her depression is over, your partner may be tempted to stop her medication or treatment. Don’t let this happen. In fact, she may have to continue treatment for many months after the acute episode is over in order to avoid a relapse.


  1. Don’t try to talk her out of the depression. Remember, depression is a disease. You wouldn’t try to talk her out of a heart attack or diabetes, and depression is no different. You need to be supportive, understanding and sympathetic – not to minimize or invalidate her illness.


  1. You have to keep your own emotions in check, difficult as it may be. It’s easy to become angry, irritated, or impatient with your partner. But this is the time when she needs your tenderness; during this time your love and support are her lifelines. Although she may not be able to ask you directly, you need to be there for her.


  1. Avoid statements such as “you look a bit down today, have you taken your medication?”

These kinds of comments will only make her feel worse. Remember that people who don’t understand depression may look upon those who are depressed as ‘crazy’. Your partner already feels that way, so don’t make her feel even more helpless and worthless.


  1. Don’t be shy about asking for support from members of your family. That’s what they are there for, in good times and bad. If your mother or mother-in-law is available, don’t hesitate to ask for her help; you’ll be surprised to how willing she is to lend a hand.


  1. 9. If your partner is feeling acutely suicidal or homicidal, or you feel that your baby or other children are in danger because of her illness, take her to the nearest emergency room and have her admitted. You must do this, even though it will certainly add to your level of stress. Again, mobilize members of the family to help you out in this crisis.


  1. The good news is that your partner will recover. She is going to come back and be a mother to you children and a partner to you, so hang in there.