If you believe your partner or loved one may be experiencing postpartum depression, it can be difficult to know how to best talk to them about it. Most new mothers—especially those experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety—are conscious of or even preoccupied with the need to prove that everything is “okay.” There is often a stigma around postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety that sometimes makes it difficult to bring up to your spouse or loved one. Some mothers fear that admitting to their struggle means they are a bad mother, weak, or incapable. They may also be disappointed or anxious that they’re not experiencing the glow of motherhood that is so often portrayed in movies or on social media and may be actively trying to hide the fact that they need help. Postpartum depression and anxiety are very common, impacting as many as 20% of new mothers. While postpartum depression and anxiety are common immediately after childbirth, although onset is regularly delayed up to a year—or even more—after childbirth.
How to Talk to a Spouse who May Have Postpartum Depression
If you believe your spouse or loved one may have postpartum depression, it’s important to approach the conversation with care and sensitivity. It’s also important to have options available for your spouse or loved one to help encourage next steps.
Approach the Conversation with Care
Focus on providing care during the conversation. It can be instinctual for a partner to go into problem-solving and analysis mode, but it’s important to remember that your spouse or loved one is likely sensitive and hurting about her struggle. Instead of statements like “you don’t seem like yourself” or “you seem to be having a hard time with motherhood,” which can put your loved one on the defensive, start your sentences with “I.” It sounds cheesy, but it’s easier for your partner to hear what you feel than to feel like you’re accusing or judging her. Try something like “I noticed you’ve seemed anxious and overwhelmed, and I want to do what I can to help you feel better.”
Know Your Statistics
A mother suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety may feel like a failure or an anomaly for having the emotions she’s having. It can be helpful in your conversation to be prepared with statistics about postpartum depression. It’s possible your partner:
- May not know the warning signs of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety
- Feels like the postpartum depression or anxiety is their fault
- Feels guilty or ashamed for not being strong enough to overcome postpartum depression on their own
- Feels alone or like she’s the only one in her community having these struggles
Being able to help your spouse or loved one understand more about postpartum depression can help lift the guilt or pressure she feels to finally seek help.
Avoid Being Judgmental or Negative
Only 40% of Utah mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression ever seek help for their postpartum depression. Since the majority of cases go undiagnosed, this number is estimated to be closer to 17-20%. That means the majority of women suffering from postpartum depression are suffering silently. Since postpartum depression is incredibly treatable, with many mothers’ symptoms beginning to ease in as soon as 2 weeks and overall treatment success rate over 80%, there’s no reason a mother should have to suffer on her own. However, due to stigma or fear of judgment, many mothers choose to hide their symptoms or refuse treatment. To have a positive conversation with your spouse or loved one about postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s important to be non-judgmental and to reinforce that it is not her fault. If you’re skeptical, make sure to do your research beforehand to understand the physiological causes of postpartum depression before approaching your loved one.
Have Options and Resources Ready
When you have your conversation with your spouse or loved one about the possibility that they may be suffering postpartum depression or anxiety, it can be helpful to have options and resources ready to present to them to offer help. Let them know that treatment is not only possible, it’s usually very successful and that in many cases they can begin feeling relief in as soon as two weeks.
How can we help?
If you’d like more information about talking to your loved one about postpartum depression, please feel free to give us a call or send us a message. We are committed to helping mothers and families recover from postpartum depression and anxiety, and can provide you with help, resources, or information to make your journey as successful as possible.