Whether you are a partner, a parent, a sibling, or a friend, it can be upsetting to watch your loved one struggle with their mental health after they’ve had a baby. You may be concerned, confused, and unsure of what to say or do to support them through this. You just want them to recover, and to find joy and fulfillment in this season of life.

Fortunately, there are many ways to support someone you care about who is experiencing mental health concerns with postpartum. 

1) Learn about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Postpartum mental health challenges are not uncommon. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 5 women / birth givers will experience a mood and anxiety disorder during pregnancy or in the 12 months following childbirth. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders affect women of every culture, age, ethnicity, and income level. Risk factors include a personal or family history of mental health issues, past or current abuse and trauma, poor social support, a history of perinatal loss, infertility, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, a NICU experience, and strained intimate relationships.

To learn more about the specific types of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and their symptoms, check out our article on Maternal Mental Health.

2) Know what to look for.

The symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders differ according to type, but generally speaking, you may notice the following in a loved who is struggling with their mental health postpartum:

– a lack of interest in or difficulty bonding with the baby

– appetite and sleep disruptions (especially if they cannot sleep when the baby is sleeping, or if there is a significant lack of the need for sleep)

– persistent feelings of sadness and crying

– persistent worries and fears over the baby that seem extreme

– feelings of anger, rage, or irritability

– feelings of guilt, shame, failure as a mother/parent, and hopelessness

– a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and relationships

– unpleasant physical sensations, such as a racing heart, nausea, sweating, and muscle tension

– bizarre beliefs or communication patterns

– possible thoughts of harming themselves or the baby

Remember that this is not your loved one’s fault, and with the appropriate support and treatment, recovery is possible.

To learn more about the specific types of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and their symptoms, check out our article on Maternal Mental Health.

3) Check in with your loved one. A lot.

For many new parents, finding themselves struggling after having a baby can be a source of shame or embarrassment. They may be reluctant to start a conversation about how they’re feeling because they feel like they “should” be able to manage. It’s important to check in with them often throughout the first year postpartum, as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can show up at any point during this time.

If you’re worried that your partner or loved one may be struggling with their mental health postpartum, start a conversation about it. Asking questions about how they’re feeling will give them the space to talk about their experiences and get support with what they’re going through. Aim to listen, validate their emotions, and support them, without trying to fix their feelings. 

1) Lots of people have a hard time postpartum. Can we talk about how you’ve been feeling since the baby arrived?

2) Is there anything going on for you that you’d like to chat about? I’m here to listen.

3) I’ve noticed recently that _____. Can we talk about that?

4) Are you getting enough sleep / food / time to yourself? How can we plan to help you get what you need?

5) Are you having any thoughts, feelings, or experiences that you weren’t expecting? Any that are scaring you? I want to support you through this.

6) What do you see as the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? Do you want emotional support or solutions for this?

Offering a safe, non-judgmental space for your partner or loved one to talk about how they’re feeling is one of the most important things you can do to support them during this challenging time.

4) Prioritize sleep, nutrition, social support, and self-care.

It’s no surprise that new parents have a tougher time than usual meeting their basic needs. However, research has shown that factors such as protecting maternal sleep, ensuring adequate nutrition and self-care, and having a robust support network goes a long way towards preventing and improving postpartum mental health concerns. If your loved one is struggling, coming up with a plan to better meet her basic needs will be an important part in her recovery. Ideas include addressing sleep equality (such as taking shifts with the baby at night); advocating for a “meal train”, dog walker, or other outside practical supports to reduce the burden of household responsibilities; connecting her with a maternal support group or therapist; and ensuring that each partner gets sufficient time to themselves.

5) Offer to help them access resources and professional support.

Many new parents face barriers to getting the help they need, including a lack of childcare, financial concerns, feeling ashamed of struggling or like they “should” be able to manage, and feeling overwhelmed at the idea of searching for and connecting with a perinatal mental health professional. 

If it’s within your capacity, try to reduce as many barriers as possible for your loved one: offer to call their doctor for them; research and connect with a trained perinatal mental health therapist; offer to babysit at their home so they can chat with a care provider, or go with them to watch the baby during their appointment; offer to pay for a therapy session, etc.

Postpartum Treatment in B.C.

Having a baby is an exciting and challenging time, one that dramatically alters a mother’s physical, emotional, and mental sense of self. It’s no wonder so many women have a hard time after giving birth.

If you’re worried about your loved one and would like to have a conversation about some of what you’re noticing, or to book a session for your loved one, consider giving us a call at Sage Mental Health & Maternal Wellness. Having been through her own struggles with perinatal mental health, Jennifer knows how difficult and lonely it can be to watch a loved one struggle postpartum without adequate supports. You don’t have to go through this alone. With extensive professional experience in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and an advanced certification in maternal mental health, Jennifer would be happy to chat about how she might support you or your loved one on their path to wellness.

Call today at (604)-991-7127 or email [email protected] to chat or to book an appointment.