Supporting a Partner Experiencing Postpartum Depression: Some Do’s and Don’ts

Source: Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

If your partner feels depressed in the weeks, months, or few years after having a baby, you likely feel desperate to take away their pain and make them feel better. It is incredibly difficult when someone you love is sad, hopeless, or distressed after having a baby and understandably, you may want to jump in to “fix it” mode. Here are some things to know:

1. Recovery takes time

It will take longer than you want for your partner to recover. One day of seeing someone you love in pain will feel too long. Having patience is important as recovery from postpartum depression is a process and it is different for each individual.

2. You cannot fix someone else’s depression

No amount of love can take your partner’s postpartum depression away. However, there are things you can do that will help your partner through the process of recovering. By educating yourself about postpartum mental health, you can learn what types of support might be useful. This will help you engage in meaningful and supportive conversations with your partner. With your partner’s permission, it may also be helpful to join one of their psychotherapy sessions to have a collaborative discussion with them and their therapist about the best ways of supporting your partner.

3. Your well-intended words can hurt

It is common for friends, family, and partners to think they are being encouraging and helpful by saying things such as:

“Everyone gets the baby blues”

“This is just a phase”

“You’ll snap out of this soon”

“This should be the happiest time in your life”

“Be positive”

Unfortunately, these statements often land as invalidating and hurtful. What to do instead?

4. Set aside your desire to fix and instead lean into your partner’s pain

Take time to be present with your partner. Practice listening to how they are feeling and asking about their emotions, worries, and fears without offering suggestions of how they can feel better. Let your partner know that you hear and understand them by making validating statements. One way to do this is simply by reflecting back what you hear your partner say. For example: “you feel really sad right now”, “you’re scared”, or “you’re working so hard.” Ask your partner what you can do that might help. We often assume the kind of support someone needs and wants, but we do not actually know if we are right unless we ask.

Lastly, while you are taking care of a baby and caring for and supporting your partner through their postpartum experience, you may be last on your list. Do not forget to take care of yourself too.