Helping your partner recover from a Perinatal Mental Illness? We have information ready to help you and your partner together.
Helping your partner recover from postpartum depression or a related illness: 10 Practical Tips for Dads and Partners
If you are reading this page, likely your partner has been recently diagnosed or you think she may show signs of postpartum depression or a related illness. You might have difficulty understanding what is happening and why your partner is suddenly not acting herself. You might feel confused, angry, frustrated or helpless. These are normal thoughts, feelings and emotions. PPDAM recognizes that PPD is a family illness. With the right help, information and support, your family CAN get through this together. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Get informed on PPD and related illnesses.
- Do you think your partner has PPD or a related illness and wondering how to approach the subject? Try having a “gentle” conversation with her about your worries.
- Find a private and quiet place to talk with her.
- Reassure her that she is a good mother (mothers with PPD need to hear this often) and tell her gently about your worries.
- You may need to be specific about the signs and symptoms you think she is experiencing.
- Reassure her that what she is going through may be PPD or a related illness. These are the most common complications of having a baby and it is not her fault.
- It is possible that your partner might have an iron deficiency or a problem with her thyroid, which can sometimes mimic symptoms of depression. Only her health care provider can provide an accurate diagnosis.
- Help her to reach out for help.
- Ask her what you can do to help. She may not know, but it’s important to ask. Things she may need help with include: scheduling her doctor’s appointment, calling her public health nurse, contacting a local support group and even driving her to medical appointments and support group meetings. Reassure her that this is not her fault and that the sooner she gets help, the sooner she will feel better.
- Tell her about the Postpartum Support International and Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba warmlines.
- Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba Warmline: 204-391-5983
- Postpartum Support International Warmline: 1-800-944-4PPD
- Get help and support for yourself.
- You don’t have to do this all on your own. Now is a time to call on your support network (friends, family) for help.
- Ask your supports if they can help with: meal preparation, light housework, running errands, helping with transportation of other children and even with childcare. Remember to ask your supports for a break when you need it.
- See Resources for Dads and Partners below for additional support.
- Help her around the house
- Do your best to help more with housework until she gets back on her feet. If need be, consider hiring a cleaner part-time. Supports can be helpful here too.
- Do your best to help with meal planning and consider delegating this task to your support network. Ask if they can arrange a meal drop off schedule. Proper nutrition is very important for a new mother.
- Give her breaks from the baby (and other children).
- Set up a schedule between family, friends and outside supports to provide her with breaks when you’re not at home. Visit our In-Home and Community Supports page to learn about other ways of finding help.
- Consider part time childcare for older children to minimize daytime stress on your partner.
- Allow her to sleep. Sleep is an important part of treatment and recovery. Sometimes that means letting her catch a nap or doing some of the night feedings.
- Encourage her to do things for herself. Self-care is also very important in treatment and recovery.
- Look into your options about taking paternity leave or using vacation hours to be home with your family while your partner recovers.
- For more information on paternity leave, visit the Government of Manitoba website at https://www.gov.mb.ca/labour/standards/doc,parental-leave,factsheet.html
- Hold off on sex for a while.
- Depression can lead to a low sex drive.
- Find other ways to stay connected as a couple and set aside time for your relationship, such as a movie night at home, getting out for a walk together, going on a date night, etc.
- Do your best to not make her feel pressured to have sex before she is ready.
- Listen to her.
- Give her your undivided attention and encourage her to open up to you about what she is thinking and how she is feeling. She does not expect you to FIX this. She just needs you to listen to her and be there emotionally.
- Try not to be judgmental.
- Sometimes, mothers with PPD or a related illness can develop intrusive thoughts. For more information on these, visit our Facts page.
- Try your best to be understanding that these thoughts are part of her illness and are NOT her fault.
- If you are concerned about her safety or the safety of your child by what she is telling you and you think she is in crisis, click here!
- Remember that PPD and related illnesses are treatable.
- The role you and your support network play in supporting your partner is essential to her recovery.
- The changes in your partner are temporary.
- Do your best not to take anything personally and be patient.
- The road to recovery looks different for everyone.
Things to say and things NOT to say: to someone struggling with postpartum depression or a related illness
Things to Say
Things NOT to Say
|“We will get through this together”.||“This should be the happiest time of your life”.|
|“I’m here for you. I love you”.||“Snap out of it. I don’t like who you’re becoming”.|
|“I know you feel awful, but I am so proud of you for getting help”.||“You don’t need counselling. You don’t need medication. You just need to relax”.|
|“This isn’t your fault”.||“You didn’t _______, again?! What did you do all day?!”|
|“You are a great mother” and give examples.||“You are not the mother I thought you’d be”.|
|“(child’s name) loves you!”||“I don’t understand. You have so much to be grateful for”|
|As she begins to recover tell her “I can see you are starting to get better” and give examples.||Do not compare her to another mom who is coping better after having a new baby.|
The above is referenced and paraphrased the table from chapter 4 of the “Beyond the Blues” by Shoshana .S. Bennett, PhD & Ped Indman, EdD, MFT. To get a copy of their book, click here.
Resources for Dads and Partners
If your partner has been diagnosed with PPD or a related illness, we recognize that you will need some additional tools for your toolbox:
Visit Postpartum Support International (PSI):
- PSI has PSI Chat with an Expert-For Dads where you can call the first Monday of every Month with your questions and concerns and speak with one of their many experts.
- See the link below for more information
- See the link below for more information
- PSI also has a video that you can watch called Fathers Respond where you will have a chance to hear other father’s experiences, hear their advice and learn how they have coped.
- To view this video, visit PSI at: http://postpartum.net/Professionals-and-Community/Resources-for-Fathers.aspx
Visit the these websites/blogs for specific resources for Postpartum Partners:
Visit the Following Links for More Information on What You Can Do to Help:
- Postpartum Depression: Treatment for Couples
- Canadian Mental Health Association- Mental Health Resource Guide. Page #8 discusses tips for families and lists all family therapy services in Winnipeg.
- The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman
- Any of the books listed on our Helpful Publications page. Our suggested books are listed by diagnosis, for your convenience.