Support is important
Partners are often the first person women turn to when they start to experience mental health issues during pregnancy or after the birth. A partner’s continued support, along with other caring family and friends, plays a vital role in a woman’s recovery.
Having a supportive partner, family and friends can:
- reduce the risk of postnatal depression in first-time mums
- reduce the length of stay in hospital for women requiring inpatient mental health care
- increase the likelihood that treatment recommendations and referrals are followed up.
Caring for your partner
You can help support your partner by:
- helping the mental health care professional get a fuller picture of theirwellbeing and situation
- taking part in theirtherapeutic programs or care plans
- coming to any meetings or help out if they arestaying in a mother-baby mental health unit
- asking if theywould like you to come along to any appointments.
Remain positive and hopeful
Tell your partnerthat it will be alright and that theywill get better soon. Accept the help and support from family and friends.
If your partner is in hospital, it is important to reassure themthat:
- they aresafe
- the care they'rereceiving is in the best interest to themand the baby
- theycan return home after recovery.
Avoid extra stimulation and social media
Try to keep your partnerfrom feeling too excited or too worried by:
- avoiding large groups of people
- going out to shopping centres.
If your partnerexperiences psychosis, then limit theiruse of social media. They may regret comments posted while they werenot well.
If they arein hospital, keep the visits short and frequent. Theymay not be able to manage long conversations and may not be able to take much in.
Accept and acknowledge her feelings
Don't try to persuade themthat their psychosis is not real.
Do acknowledge theemotions and feelings they areexperiencing in relation to the psychosis, such as fear, anger or sadness.
Do reassure that they aredoing a good job as a mother, even if they'renot able to be as involved as before.
Do remind themthat asking for help shows courage and insight, and is the first step on the journey to recovery.
Do reassure themthat looking after theirown wellbeing shows theycareabout theirown health and the health of thebaby.
Caring for your baby
The symptoms of mental illness can be overwhelming and your wife,partner or girlfiriend may find it very hard to care for the baby. Provide support by
caring for your baby.
Tips from dads who’ve been there
"Everyone just kept on saying ‘be supportive’. What the f*** did they think I’d been doing?!"
"Now I’d say to others: ‘get her lots of sleep’. I stayed up watching crap on TV and did the early night feed – we bottle fed, she hated that but I couldn't see any other way. The PIMH team said sleep was just really important for her recovery."
"I texted some friends and family saying the baby was teething so not to come round for a few days to give her some space until she was able to make those decisions herself."
"Sometimes I just had to think on my feet. Her side of the family are always around ours, but I just didn’t think they would understand this and I didn’t know enough to explain it."
"Don’t leave her alone, but don’t expect her to talk about everything either."
"Let her cry – just comfort her, don’t try to fix things. This is out of your control."
"She would say we’d all be better without her. That really scared me, but I just kept reassuring her we needed her and she would recover. I didn’t really believe it sometimes, but just kept saying it - fake it till you make it!"
"I emailed work and explained she wouldn’t be in.
I kept the details to a minimum because I knew she would be embarrassed if her colleagues saw the way she was acting so bizarre or saying weird stuff."
"I took the baby out for walks in the pram just to give her a break. I’d had other kids so knew a bit about looking after babies."
"I reassured her we were going through this together and we would get through it. I thought she would know but she needed to hear it a lot."
Although this resource is aimed at dads, the information is helpful for all new parents and carers regardless of gender, who are coping with perinatal mental illness