Lads, this is the real deal and where we need to step up our game. We might be tired, overwhelmed and struggling to deal with the lack of time to ourselves, but if mum is struggling with Postnatal Depression (also known as Postpartum depression), then this time following our new borns is not about us.
If the mother of your child is struggling with Postnatal Depression, then make sure that you get yourself informed. It might also be helpful for the grandparents to learn more about it, as well as very close friends (this is a sensitive issue so reserve inviting people to help to only her closest and most trusted friends). Please send this post, or any of the articles at the bottom of this page, on to them to help them get better informed.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a form of depression triggered by the hormonal and physiological and psychological changes induced by labour and the birth of your child. The risk of this is increased by a traumatic labour, and those who have suffered with depression is the past are 20times more likely to be affected.
Did you know that 10-15% of women struggle with Postnatal depression? Well, 10-15% of women report that they are struggling with Postnatal depression – this is likely to be around 5% higher the actual numbers. Which means that our baby-mamas have a horrifying 1-in-5 chance of struggling with their mental health after the biggest miracle of their lives.
Regardless of how we are feeling, or how much we are struggling, we need to find our own outlets that will not impact the mothers. This is our time to be strong and support our women through this. It may mean we have to get up more times than you planned through the night to do another feed, we need to do more nappy/diaper changes, miss the drink after work, or put down the playstation controller and lend an ear.
Around 58% of women with PND do not report the problem – and this will often lead to them not speaking with their spouse or partner about their emotions. This leads to a further feeling of isolation, and will eventually make the situation worse. We need to adopt a stance of emotional intelligence and keep an eye out for how they are feeling. Be present but not over bearing, ask them how they’re doing regularly but not so much that they feel smothered… All of this is quite difficult, it is a balancing act, but again this time is not about us.
What do we need to be looking out for in this time? According to the NHS website
- low mood
- constant exhaustion
- inability to cope
- feelings of guilt regarding their inability to cope or not loving the baby enough
- overwhelming anxiety
- difficulty sleeping
- lack of appetite
- difficulties bonding with the baby
- relationship difficulties with the partner
- low energy
- low sex drive
- social withdrawal (from family and friends)
- crying for no reason (however ‘no reason’ is an awful way to write this)
We, as the fathers all have the skills and determination in us to identify these symptoms, and the ability to deal with it. We may not be able to remove the problem, but our role is to ease the pain.
So how can we help combat PND? Throughout my research, the three main suggestions that I found were:
Let them rest
Sleep is the best cure, and a good sleep routine is the fastest way to apply this medicine. This may not be easy when you head back to work after your two weeks paternity leave, but make sure that you look after baby as much as possible, at the same times each day. This will allow mum to sleep and get into a good routine.
Not only that, but getting into a good sleep routine will also help build a healthy appetite. Eating regular, healthy meals (plenty of greens, less greasy food, no ready meals and plenty of iron) will work wonders.
You might be exhausted, but in the long run this is the best way to go.
Get some exercise
Walking for 30 minutes a day (more is better) will help to release the right endorphins to fight depression. Regular exercise is an incredible way to fight depression, but also a brilliant way to bond with your baby, and can be a real opportunity for mum and dad to talk things through. There is no TV distracting you, no household chores to do, just mum, dad and baby. Talking therapy sessions are known to help, so giving mum that catharsis by letting her talk things through on your walks is going to help.
Time for yourself
This rings true for you and mum, but it might not be easy during times of PND for you both to get the adequate time to have some ‘you space’. If mum wants to combine this with her walking, then perfect, but if not, make sure that on a daily basis, you provide an avenue for her to do something she loves. But remember, this is about her relaxing and doing something enjoyable – not having time to let her thoughts escape her.
This relaxation time might be cooking, reading, having a long bath, shooting 14 year olds on Call Of Duty or Fortnite, whatever is her thing. Just give her the space to do what she loves.
I know that as men, we also need to have time to ourselves – it would be impossible to work a 9-5, come home and not stop all evening, get less sleep during the night to then repeat the next day – so make sure to have some you time during sleeping periods – when both mum and baby are resting. Some times you’ll need this time to tidy the house, do the washing up etc. but make sure you get at least 45minutes of you time in per day. You don’t want to be broken down – your baby needs you to be strong, and a little time each day will prevent burnout. Remember that mum and baby are our priorities here, so look after them by looking after yourself.
Other things to note
It is important to remember that there is no shame in seeing a health care professional. They are fully trained to deal with these situations; there will be no judgement and no condemnation (if you find any doctor ever makes you feel like you’re a bad parent, or that you’re doing something wrong, make sure that you raise a complaint with the practice manager or with the PALS service). Everything that is said, is fully confidential so going to see your doctor is the best way forward. You will be shown every resource available for overcoming PND, for both Mum and Dad.
If you don’t want to, or cannot go see your doctor, then raise it with your community midwife. Similar to the doctor, they are fully trained and will help you get through this. Finally, if you’d rather speak with someone anonymously, then there are a multitude or charitable organisations that can help, such as MIND (www.mind.org.uk) – you can call them on 0300 123 3393.
For you dad, keep yourself strong, both mentally, and physically too; making sure that mum is eating well also means eating well yourself. If you like exercising, don’t stop going running or heading to the gym – thats really important. And finally, as I’ve said above, have that time to yourself. All of this will help to combat burnout.
Remember, this will end. Your girlfriend, wife or mother of your child will beat this, it is only a matter of time. You cannot fix this, but you can be the number 1 support in her life. Be strong for this time – it will end.
If you’re an upcoming dad and want to learn more about PND, there is an excellent short film called Taketh which is backed by the charitable organisation MIND. Its a truly gripping telling of a family dealing with depression following a very traumatic birth.
This is not an easy film to watch but will be extremely informative for you (it might not be the best film for mum to watch, either before or after the birth).
If you want to find some articles or advice for dealing with PND, then I have put together a series of resources below. Please take the time to read through them and equip yourself. Our baby-mamas are depending on us to be a pillar of strength and the best way to do this is to keep ourselves informed.
Want more information?
What is Postnatal Depression – everydayhealth.com
Mental Health Helplines – NHS Support
Tips for Dads During Postpartum Depressions – postpartum.com
What to do, and what not to do – Psychologytoday.com
Postpartum dads – postpartumdads.org