It’s something that not many people give that much thought to, but postnatal depression affects somewhere between 13-19% of mothers, and around 10% of fathers (numbers vary depending on the studies). That’s quite a lot of people. So what I aim to do here is give a few ways that I feel, either from my own experiences or through research, may alleviate, or in some cases help prevent, postnatal depression. Due to the fact that I am a father, some of what I’ll say here is aimed more at other fathers as opposed to the mothers, but the majority of it applies to both. Here we go:
Well, here’s a video first for those not wishing to read:
Be as involved with the baby as possible. Research shows that the more the fathers were involved, reporting higher in care-giving but also in play time, the less likely they were to suffer from stress and depression. I’ll admit, this did little to help with me, at least at first, but it makes sense. The only way you’re ever going to form the bond needed with the baby is to actually be there with the baby. This is part of the reason why paternity leave should be extended from two week to at least four. Two weeks is not enough time for the father to not only bond with the baby, but also support the mother. But that’s a different issue.
Another thing that research showed was that it was important to have a supportive co-parent. Those who felt that their co-parent had confidence in them were also less likely to experience stress and depression. I know you’ll both be going through an awful lot of stress when this baby comes, but it’s important that you try and do it together.
Limit Your Expectations
You’ve probably heard countless stories from people about how much they loved their new born, and how instantly the feelings came on. Well sometimes this doesn’t happen. If you have a stressful birth it can be extremely hard for you to form an instant emotional bond as the process still hasn’t been internalised. Remember, we don’t have any say in our emotions and feelings. You don’t control who you love, when you love them and how much you’re going to love them. The same goes for your newborn. Maybe it won’t happen at first, maybe it won’t be there after 3 months, but if you keep at it, and spend all that time with them, it should eventually come.
The important thing to remember is that depression can easily form when our expectations and reality are too far apart. It’s one of the factors why depression is so prevalent in richer countries as apposed to poor ones. We expect far more from life than those in third world counties. If we limit and manage our expectations then our reality will be much closer to what we expected.
Don’t Forget About Each Other
If this is your first child, then chances are you and your partner were used to having a lot of alone time. You had your relationship where you wanted and you connected with each other a lot more than you are about to. This new baby will put so much strain on your relationship, that you are very likely to see a decline in your relationship.
There’s a strong possibility that you’re going to argue more, and sling the odd insult at each other. One bit of advice, anything said between midnight and 5am doesn’t count. You’re going to be tired, agitated, annoyed, frustrated, short-tempered, shall I go on? You will say things that you probably shouldn’t, but they will be things said from a bad place. Don’t take these things personally, and quickly forget them. The same probably goes for the rest of the day, but that time in the middle of the night will see you at your worst.
It’s important to still do things together and never see your newborn as a burden. You can still do the majority of the things you used to be able to do, maybe now it just takes a little more time and planning.
Go Away Together
This is one that truly worked for me. Just going away with the baby to a hotel for a few nights places you in a position where you are more absorbed in the baby without all the distractions. There’s no work, no visitors, no house work, and a different place that isn’t the same four walls you’ve felt trapped in. Yes, it might seem daunting taking a young baby on a road trip, but it can easily be done, even more so if you’re breastfeeding. My partner and I have been away a few times now, starting with one night in Weston, then two nights in Bournemouth, two nights in Glastonbury, and at the end of August we’re travelling around the UK (with a trip to Amsterdam) for 6 nights, here’s the blog for that.
It was the best thing for me. Isabelle loved it, and even smiled for the first time on our first stay away, and I got to immerse myself in this new parenting role without any other worries. Trust me, just get out of the house and go away. It’ll do wonders for your relationship with each other and the baby. We try to travel will Isabelle quite often, if you want to read about our travels, then you can so here.
Talk about it
Finally, just talk about it. Feeling down? Tell your partner. I really don’t understand how people can actually hide depression from their partner. I can hide it from anyone else, but not from my wife. I can try. But she can tell. Maybe it’s because she’s had years and years of noticing the subtle differences in my tone, facial expression, and somehow even by the colour of my face. But if you can somehow hide it, don’t. Telling them how you feel literally helps alleviate the problem. Not only that, but it creates an open dialogue between the two of you that is needed for a healthy, long-term relationship. If you want to read more about talking about it, then you can here.
Doing this on your own? Then simply replace partner with a family member, or someone else. There is someone out there in everybody’s life that will listen, even more so these days. There are Facebook groups whose sole purpose is to help those who might be suffering with PND. Same goes with the PANDAS Foundation. Seriously. If you feel like something isn’t right, get in contact with someone.
There are a bunch of other things I’ve found that have helped with depression in general, and I’ll make a post about that soon too. To stay up-to-date with things, simply like this on Facebook. You can also see a lot more suggestions via the Toolkit.
Always remember to seek help when you feel depression coming on. These are just a few things that I believe will help, but sometimes people need more help than just some suggestions. You may need medication or therapy, and really should see your GP if you are at all concerned.
This also goes for the people who notice that someone isn’t functioning well. If you see it, do something about it. There might not be a lot that you can do, but being there and getting help when they don’t want to might be all you’ve got.
If you want to know more about my experiences with PND then feel free to read this.