How to Know if Your Partner Is OK Postpartum

mom and dad with a newborn


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Having a baby is a beautiful milestone in a new family's life, but is also an emotionally and physically draining experience as well, especially for the new mom. And while every new parent will need time, care, and patience as they recover, sometimes things are a little rocky at the beginning. Here's how partners can best support each other through this transition.

Is Your Partner OK?

If you are starting to wonder if something might be wrong with your partner, you may want to pick a quiet time to talk together. Ask them how they're feeling and if something is bothering them. Keep in mind that it's normal to have mild mood swings or feel a little blue after giving birth.

However, if your partner is having frequent bouts of crying, seems overwhelmed or hopeless, expresses intense fears, worries about hurting the baby, or has lost all interest in caring for themself or the newborn, these may be signs of a more serious condition.

They could have a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder. If you suspect something like that, be sure to encourage your partner to talk with a doctor.

Of course witnessing these changes in your partner can be confusing, challenging, and even painful to watch, especially when they don't respond to childbirth and caring for the baby the way that you expected. Rest assured that your partner is probably as perplexed and upset by this situation as you are.

Do understand that new parents are not to blame for any depression or anxiety they may be experiencing. With the right care and a little extra help from you, your partner will soon be feeling much better.

What Else Could It Be?

What if your partner's doctor says what they are experiencing is normal? If it's not postpartum depression, what else could be fueling your partner's rage and resentment toward you and increasing irritableness? According to psychologists, it's not uncommon for new moms to struggle with frustration, irritability, and crankiness.

In fact, they might even resent their partners shortly after having a baby. After all, it's easier to be angry and frustrated with another adult than it is to be upset with an infant. But what is at the root of these emotions?

It could be that your partner is cranky because they bought into the myth of motherhood. They may be frustrated that they're struggling as a new mom and wonders why they can't do things more efficiently than they thought.

They may resent the lack of normalcy in their life. They also may miss their old life and resent their post-pregnancy body. There is a lot to come to terms with as a new mom and the more you can help ease these concerns and fears, the better.

How You Can Help

Regardless of whether your partner has some postpartum irritability or is struggling with postpartum depression, you are probably wondering what you can do to help. First of all, the best thing you can do is to listen without judgment or advice and take your cues from them.

Even if your natural tendency may be to rush in and fix things, that's not what they need right now. Instead, try being empathetic and practical in your support. Here are some additional ways you can help.

  • Go together to the doctor. Not only will you be providing support and encouragement by attending the doctor visit, but you also can offer additional insight for the doctor. However, if your partner prefers to go on their own, you need to allow them the space to do that if it's safe.
  • Reassure your partner. It's natural for new moms to blame themselves, feel guilty, be bored, or believe they have done something wrong. Remind them on a regular basis that this is not their fault, that they are not alone, and that it will get better. Encourage them to open up and share their feelings. Then, take the time to truly listen.
  • Encourage them to take breaks. Part of recovery includes resting and taking care of their body. Fatigue is a major factor in worsening symptoms. Consequently, you can help them heal and recover faster if you remind them to take some time for self-care. This might mean that you pick up some extra chores or calm the baby when fussy. Anything you can do to give them a break will help them get better more quickly.
  • Lend a helping hand. Keep in mind that your partner just gave birth. As a result, they should be focusing on taking care of themself. So, instead of waiting to be asked to help with the housework or to change the baby's diaper, take the initiative and do what needs to be done. Taking care of a newborn is a lot of work.
  • Offer simple affection. Hug, kiss, be affectionate. It's important that your partner know they are loved and appreciated. Also, be patient when it comes to sex, especially because a post-pregnancy body needs plenty of time to heal. It's completely normal to have a low sex drive with depression or other physical issues. With rest and treatment, their sex drive will return.
  • Arrange to have a date night. See if they might like to spend some time together apart from the baby. Then, take the initiative and schedule a date night and arrange babysitting. Of course, if they're not feeling up to leaving the house yet, that is OK. You can always arrange a stay-at-home date night after the baby goes to bed. Even just cuddling and watching a movie can be enough of a break.

A Word From Verywell

No matter what is at the root of your partner's irritability and moodiness, you need to recognize that it's not uncommon and will eventually subside. The key is that you work to support them as they adjust to their new role and responsibilities.

And look for ways that you can lend a little extra support. In no time, you will both have adjusted to your new roles as parents and strengthened your relationship in the meantime.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.