Pregnancy & Postpartum: Tips for Dad/Partners

dad reading to baby

As a maternal mental health therapist, I work with so many moms who feel overwhelmed and just not themselves after having a baby. 

Typically, after developing a better understanding of how common Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are, and discussing some strategies to cope with the overwhelm, they begin feeling better, or at least reassured that what they are going through won’t last forever.

At this point, one common thing I hear is, “Now, how do I get my partner to understand?” 

 

I love bringing dads and partners in to give them some PMAD education and provide reassurance that things won’t always feel so hard.

When partners work together and communicate to navigate the ups and downs of pregnancy & postpartum, families can avoid the misunderstandings and tension that tend to pile on during an already challenging stage of life.

Here are some tips for all the partners who are wondering, “Where did my wife go? Is she ever coming back? And why is she so darn angry with me?”

(Note: Many of the moms I work with are the primary caregiver with husbands who work outside the home, but postpartum struggles can certainly impact all types of partnerships. Please tailor these tips as needed to fit your situation and family structure.)

 

  • Understand PMADs. Know that Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders are very common during pregnancy and postpartum, in part due to unavoidable hormonal shifts. If your partner seems unlike her usual self in terms of mood or anxiety, support her in connecting with a therapist who specializes in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C).  

 

  • Listen actively. Be there to listen without judgment, interruption, or the drive to fix a problem without being invited to do so. Ask her how she’s doing, what feels difficult, and how you can best support her.

 

  • Validate feelings. Acknowledge and validate her emotions, even if they don’t make sense to you. 

 

  • Offer reassurance. Remind her that she's doing a great job and that it's normal to feel overwhelmed by new experiences.  

 

  • Prioritize her need for rest. Remember that growing a human is hard work and can be exhausting. Postpartum, moms are healing and needs plenty of rest. Offer to take over, manage feedings, or be on baby-duty during certain shifts so she can nap.  

 

  • Know that brain fog and difficulty making even the simplest decisions is common for news moms who are sleep-deprived and/or experiencing a PMAD. If she has a hard time choosing what she wants for dinner, just figure out a plan and feed her.

 

  • Be helpful without being asked. Bring her water and snacks. Wash the bottle and pump parts. Do the laundry. New moms fixated on caring for the baby tend to put their own self-care on the backburner. Often, they find it hard to relax knowing there’s a never ending cycle of dirty dishes, soiled onesies, and household chores. Get ahead of her potential for overwhelm and resentment by noticing what needs to be done and jumping in to help. 

 

  • Don’t take it personally when she has a short fuse. If it seems like she can’t stand you, assume it’s temporary and hormonal. She likely feels guilty about her uncontrollable irritability and your patience will be more effective than your pointing out her flaw.

 

  • Prioritize and encourage her need for down time. Go ahead and golf on the weekend, but make sure she gets some equal alone time, too. Suggest she do things for herself while you spend time with the baby. Suggest dinner with friends, a mani & pedi, a walk outside, etc. (Pro tip: Grocery shopping does NOT count as down time.) 

 

  • Recognize that navigating the feed, wake, sleep schedules of a newborn can be frustrating and exhausting. Despite the monotony of the routine, the hours in the day can fly by, so don’t expect her to get much else done while she’s home with the baby.

 

  • Communicate needs. If you've been at work all day, you might come home wanting some quiet time to reset, while she may be desperate for some adult conversation. Balance each other’s needs as you find solutions that satisfy you both.

 

  • Help with childcare. Structure your schedule so there are consistent and predictable windows of time when you are available to help or take over. When she's ready to leave baby for date nights, help to find and schedule babysitters. 

 

  • Be patient. Adjusting to life with a newborn can be challenging for both partners, so be patient with each other and give yourselves grace as you navigate this new chapter together.

 

  • Be patient with sex. Lack of a sex drive is normal for an exhausted new mom. Find other ways to connect to maintain an intimate bond and communicate about her needs and readiness for sex.

 

  • Know that dads/partners can experience PMADs, too. Get help if you are feeling depressed, irritable, or disconnected.  

 

As a wise pediatrician once told my husband at our baby’s newborn check up, “It’s yes, dear. No problem, honey. Whatever you say, sweetie. You are right and I am wrong.” 

 

Hang in there and know this phase won’t last forever! 💙