Are you worried that your partner has postnatal depression?

Dads have told us that they found there was no information about how to support your partner with post natal depression or any perinatal (pregnancy, birth, 1st year) mental health problems, that they have felt unsure what to do to assist their partners, or what to look out for.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

 Are your worried that your partner is overly anxious?

  • Has she had panic attacks (rapid heartbeat, fainting, feel like she can’t breathe)?
  • Does she find it hard to make decisions?
  • Has she lost her usual interest in life?
  • Does she seem unable to enjoy things?
  • Is your partner very tired regardless of how much sleep she has had?
  • Has your partner been feeling unhappy or low for more than a few days or weeks?
  • Does she wake in the early hours of the morning and find it difficult to go back to sleep?
  • Do you feel that she has lost her confidence?
  • Is she blaming herself for lots of things?
  • Has the way she eats changed – poor appetite or eating more than normal?
  • But most of importantly, are you worried? You are one of the people that know her the best if you are worried then there is probably something wrong?
  • Has she asked for help?

If after reading these symptoms you think that your partner is struggling with her mental health then here are some things you can do about it.

  • Encourage her to talk to you, let her know her feelings are important and she shouldn’t dismiss them.
  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Don’t try and come up with solutions in the first instance, just be there and let her know that you are there for her and you have heard what she has said.
  • Consider speaking to your Health Visitor together, or with your wife’s blessing call your Health Visitor, her number will be in your house somewhere.
  • Talk through what you can both do to help. Maybe she needs some time on her own to rest or just be, maybe she just needs more time with you and the baby together.
  • Talk to her about your feelings, recognize that this is a huge and often bewildering change for you both.

Who can help?

  • A family member whom she is close too, her own mother or sister, or best friend. Having someone else she can talk to will help.
  • If your partner is still being seen by her midwife, talking to the midwife about how she is feeling is a very good first step to feeling better.
  • Your Health Visitor is there to help in just these situations (as well as lots of other situations)
  • Your GP, particularly if your partner has already got a good relationship with them.
  • It might be that your area has its own Perinatal Mental Health team, ask when you speak to the midwife/GP/health visitor if a referral is a good idea.
  • IAPT might be a good option, have a look online for your local IAPT services.

It might help you both to have a look at PND Hour on Twitter.  It is every Wednesday from 8-9pm. Just look out for #PNDhour


A word on Puerperal psychosis

By Lesley Carter

Psychosis is a descriptor for a whole host of mental health illnesses; it means that the sufferer is perhaps not in touch with reality, may be suffering from hallucinations, and has some unshakable firmly held delusional beliefs.  These beliefs are quite distorted and not in keeping with their usual beliefs. Some women post-labour can experience this. The statistics on this can vary, but it is relatively rare in women without a previously known mental health issue. It can literally come out of the blue.  The impact is quite devastating on mother and child and family if not treated immediately. Invariably hospital treatment is necessary.

Things to look out for:

Hallucinations, these can be visual, auditory, being the most common, but also olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) as well as tactile experiences. These can be very frightening and also taken to be as if they are real.

Delusions…false, distorted beliefs, usually about harm or being harmed, most common, or that evil is present in some form as an example. Or that they might have a great power is another common one.

She might be anxious and restless and fidgety or pacing.  There may be mood changes associated with how she is experiencing this illness. She might be confused and might have body movement changes in some way from her usual pattern.

What can you do:

The thing to do is to get your GP to see your partner as soon as possible, if not immediately as a matter of urgency.  Be reassuring and calm and don’t try to fix or argue the beliefs away, this may make things worse. Take over as much baby care as you can to let her rest and be present all the time until treatment is underway.