Speaking from experience, I can tell you that addressing postpartum depression (PPD) is tough enough to do with yourself, let alone with the people who love you. No matter how much information you have or how knowledgeable you are about the fact that PPD is a chemical response and not at all self-inflicted, feelings of inadequacy, failure, and denial tend to get in the way. Plus, even when you do have a diagnosis, you might not be sure how to communicate to others. But when you are ready, knowing how to talk to your partner about postpartum depression can be hugely helpful for you, your baby, and those who love you.
“Childbirth is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a family’s life,” E. Danielle Butler, author of the upcoming Thoughts & Prayers for the Postpartum Mom and a mom of two, tells Romper in an email interview. “However, when the arrival of a bundle of joy is overshadowed by a cloak of postpartum depression, it can create more than a little tension in the home. During this time, open, clear communication will be essential to lessening the strain on your relationship.”
Butler, who is also a PPD survivor, says one of her top tips is simple — be honest. “It has been the norm to say ‘I’m OK’ when asked how you’re doing. When your partner asks, tell the truth. Even if you don’t have the adequate words to cover it all, acknowledging that you are not OK or not feeling like your usual self is a step in the right direction.”
Dr. Sarah Allen, a psychologist and director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance, tells Romper in an email interview that setting aside time for this conversation when you’re not exhausted is also helpful. “I know this is not easy when you have an infant, but you will get a better response from your partner if they are not on their way out the door or just about to go to sleep." She says this first step can be very difficult because it requires admitting that you are not coping or feeling the way you want to. Call on a friend or family member to watch your little one while the two of you take some time to discuss your feelings.
Try to also not rely on the media or online message boards for PPD guidance which “only tend to focus on extreme cases of postpartum depression and psychosis — that happens to only one percent of new moms," Allen adds. “[This means] your partner may be worried when you first talk about it. Explain to your partner that postpartum depression and anxiety are very common and affect approximately 20 percent of new moms.”
Allen says you may want to print out something for your partner to read that explains the symptoms and how frequently women experience them. Highlight the particular symptoms you are experiencing and consult reputable online resources that explain symptoms, treatment, and how to access support in your own state. Allen adds that local groups, like the Postpartum Depression Alliance she runs in Illinois, also offer resources for both mothers and partners.
Dr. Judith M. Thorne, Doctor On Demand Psychologist, tells Romper in an email that she also recommends the partner bear the responsibility of educating a woman's family and friends about her PPD. "Women hate to hear 'the baby is beautiful, you should be happy' or 'go get your hair done and you will feel better,'" she says. "It is definitely not that simple, or all women would be happy and have great hair." Oh my goodness, yes. I couldn't have said it better if I tried.
The truth is, your partner should be open, responsive, and willing to listen to you. PPD is normal and common, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer through it alone. Speak up, tell your partner you need their help, and be sure to talk to your healthcare provider for additional support.