Advice for family and friends
A mother suffering from PND is unable to pull herself out of it, if she could she would, no one wants to feel as terrible as you do when you have PND. The following tips may make it easier for you to understand how she is feeling, therefore helping you both through her recovery.
Your partner will have good days and bad days, times when she will feel more like her old self which will be better for both of you, but it doesn’t mean that she is totally recovered. These good days will become more and more with the bad days decreasing BUT this does take time, and she will need reassurance that she will get better. During the bad days, it may be very hard for her to remember her good days and she may even feel that the bad ones are the real her. This is NOT so, it’s the depression that makes her feel like this.
It will help her enormously if you can accept these good and bad days, support her when she's feeling low and encourage her on her good days. She will go through periods of being well and then may experience times of feeling low again, this is totally normal and is always the case with PND. However, this can be very frustrating for you and her- to see her feeling well for a time may make you think that she has recovered- this unfortunately doesn't happen with PND, it is a very gradual recovery, which can take some time.
Many women will pretend to their family and friends that they are feeling better, when asked. This may be for different reasons:
She may feel that as others expect and want her to be better by now, that it's easier to pretend rather than continue to tell them how she really feels.
She may feel that she doesn't want to be a burden to others so will stop telling them how she really feels.
She may have been told by someone that she can expect to feel better by a certain time, if she doesn't, she may well pretend to as this is what has been expected of her. Everyone has different recovery times, some longer than others, but she WILL get better.
You may not necessarily be able to see how she's feeling by her behaviour (many women are great at covering it up) so by asking how she's feeling will give you more idea and give her an opportunity to tell you. It may be an idea to have five minutes each, every evening for you to tell each other how your days' been without interruption from the other and it may be helpful for both of you to have a phrase for a bad day such as a 'red day'. So instead of saying 'are you having a bad day?' you may want to say 'is this a red day for you?'
Remember that both your lives have changed since the birth of the baby. You may now be the sole earner, a financial responsibility for you and may feel left out at times as she may only seem to have time for the baby. You may think she is more competent than you when dealing with the baby and possibly feel that you can never get it right whatever you do to try to help. If she doesn't give you the reaction you were expecting then don't give up, try again another time, she may have been having a bad day.
Your partner may find her role boring, frustrating, endless chores to be done without having much adult company during the day. Even when she meets up with others for coffee etc, she may not be able to have a conversation without being interrupted, sicked on, having to change a nappy, feed the baby etc. These are all demands made upon her, which will be made worse by her PND. She may begin to resent the fact that you can go out to work, get on with your job, eat your lunch etc without being interrupted!
She may want some caring affection from you without necessarily making love. Being a mother is physically and emotionally draining and she may well feel that the demands of the baby are so great that she doesn't have much reserve left for you. Try not to take this as rejection, she can still be loving and caring towards you and is more likely to be if she feels that demands aren't being made of her.
You may want to talk about this together, have some time (if possible) just for yourselves-you can still have emotional and physical love for each other without having sex, if either of you don't feel like it.
Finally remember, that this is an illness which takes time to recover from, she will be her old self again and things will get better for you both.
Suggestions for partners from mothers experiencing PND...
Cook a meal or better still take her out, if she feels up to it.
Take the children out, even if it's only for a short time each week, it gives her the time she needs for herself.
Help her to get the children ready when your going out.
Buy flowers, or a surprise for her, make her feel valued.
Tell her that you appreciate her, and for what, sometimes this can mean more than 'I love you.'
Perhaps share the household chores more.
See also www.fathersreachingout.com for more support