Gareth in Carmarthenshire thinks his wife may be experiencing postnatal depression and wants some advice…
I think my wife is suffering from postnatal depression. This should be one of the happiest moments of our lives but she’s miserable. It’s tiring, there’s so many things to do and God I miss sleeping but we’ve brought a beautiful baby boy into this world. We knew that this was what it’d be like. Yet she’s not pulling her weight and I can’t go on doing everything. I need her to snap out of it. How can I make this happen?
Our FamilyPoint advice to Gareth…
Thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint Cymru.
You said in your email that you think your wife is suffering from postnatal depression. If she hasn’t done so already the first thing you could do to help her through this difficult time is to encourage her to see her GP or Health Visitor. They will be able to either confirm your concerns or put your mind at rest.
Often the partners of new mums suffering with postnatal depression find it hard to understand and also frightening. As you said yourself you’ve brought a beautiful baby boy into the world. However, postnatal depression is an illness. It isn’t just someone feeling a bit sad.
Try and be as understanding and patient as you can. If possible, talk to other people in the same situation, as it will help you feel less isolated. You won’t be the only new dad in this position. Perhaps your Health Visitor could put you in contact with other new dads in the same situation? Also, if possible confide in other people. Your family and friends can support both of you. It’s important that you do things to look after yourself too.
There are lots of things that you can do to support your wife through this difficult time.
Let her talk about her feelings and anxieties however irrational they may seem to you. They will be very real to her so don’t dismiss them. Also, don’t try to reason with her. Many new mums suffering with postnatal depression struggle at times to think logically. Saying things like “pull yourself together ” will only make her feel guilty as it is just what she is unable to do.
As difficult as it can be, try not to show anger or frustration at her depression. When your wife is feeling depressed she will feel very vulnerable and will pick up signs of anger. You will undoubtedly get upset at times. That is why you too will need support.
She really needs to know and believe that you love her and that you and others will do whatever she needs to help her get better. Try to not make her feel that her depression is her fault and that only she can make herself better. Give gentle and constant encouragement and try not to criticise her, for example by pointing out all the jobs she has left undone, as this will only make her feel worse or a failure.
It’s likely that her self confidence will be low so try to boost it and help her self-esteem. When she looks nice, tell her so! When she does something good, tell her! We all have good qualities and talents. Try to be positive about the things she is good at.
Try to give lots of encouragement and praise. If she achieves something that day, no matter how small it may seem to you, give praise where it is due, but without patronising. Depression tends to make the sufferer ignore the good things that happen to them and dwell on the negative things, so try to highlight the positive.
If it is at all possible, try to arrange some quality time together, such as a meal out, trip to the cinema, or a walk in the park. It’s important that she feels like a woman as well as a mother. Grandparents, other family members, and close friends are often very keen to babysit gorgeous new babies!
There are also lots of practical things you can do to help. It’s vital that she is eating properly. After childbirth a mother needs to build up reserves of vitamins and minerals. She may have a poor appetite or be unable to get round to eating. If possible prepare her food for her so that all she needs to do is eat it.
Try to let her spend as much time with your son as she wants without worrying about having to do other things. Ask family and close friends to help out by doing jobs such as cleaning, washing etc. People are often keen to help but just need asking. During the daytime, make sure she takes time to rest if your son is sleeping rather than trying to catch up with housework.
Try to take turns with changing and washing the baby and feeding if possible so one of you gets a good night’s rest. Encourage her to get out, with or without the baby or to go out with friends, but don’t force her to go out if she does not feel up to it. She will when she’s ready.
As obvious as it sounds, sometimes, something as simple as a cwtch can help. We all like to be held and cuddled from time to time, not in a sexual way, but in a protective and caring way. The occasional cwtch will not suddenly make all your troubles go away, but it helps and feels good!
And finally remember, mothers suffering with postnatal depression do get better. It does not happen overnight. In fact, it can happen so gradually that you cannot put a date or time to it. The good days appear more, the bad ones less. When she begins to have a few good days in a row she will then probably have the odd bad day. Don’t get frustrated with her. It is part of the gradual process of getting better. Just remember the progress she’s made and remind her of it!
We consulted widely and a lot of advice here came from Mothers for Mothers, which is a postnatal depression support group.
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday – Thursday 6pm – 10pm and Friday & Saturday 10am – 2pm.
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