It's something that not many people give that much thought to, but postnatal depression affects somewhere between 13-19% of mothers, and around 10% of fathers (numbers vary depending on the studies). That's quite a lot of people. So what I aim to do here is give a few ways that I feel, either from my own experiences or through research, may alleviate, or in some cases help prevent, postnatal depression. Due to the fact that I am a father, some of what I'll say here is aimed more at other fathers as opposed to the mothers, but the majority of it applies to both. Here we go:
Be as involved with the baby as possible. Research shows that the more the fathers were involved, reporting higher in care-giving but also in play time, the less likely they were to suffer from stress and depression. I'll admit, this did little to help with me, at least at first, but it makes sense. The only way you're ever going to form the bond needed with the baby is to actually be there with the baby. This is part of the reason why paternity leave should be extended from two week to at least four. Two weeks is not enough time for the father to not only bond with the baby, but also support the mother. But that's a different issue.
Another thing that research showed was that it was important to have a supportive co-parent. Those who felt that their co-parent had confidence in them were also less likely to experience stress and depression. I know you'll both be going through an awful lot of stress when this baby comes, but it's important that you try and do it together.
You've probably heard countless stories from people about how much they loved their newborn, and how instantly the feelings came on. Well sometimes this doesn't happen. If you have a stressful birth it can be extremely hard for you to form an instant emotional bond as the process still hasn't been internalised. Remember, we don't have any say in our emotions and feelings. You don't control who you love, when you love them and how much you're going to love them. The same goes for your newborn. Maybe it won't happen at first, maybe it won't be there after three months, but if you keep at it, and spend all that time with them, it should eventually come.
The important thing to remember is that depression can easily form when our expectations and reality are too far apart. It's one of the factors why depression is so prevalent in richer countries as apposed to poor ones. We expect far more from life than those in third world counties. If we limit and manage our expectations then our reality will be much closer to what we expected.
If this is your first child, then chances are you and your partner were used to having a lot of alone time. You had your relationship where you wanted and you connected with each other a lot more than you are about to. This new baby will put so much strain on your relationship, that you are very likely to see a decline in your relationship.
There's a strong possibility that you're going to argue more, and sling the odd insult at each other. One bit of advice, anything said between midnight and 5am doesn't count. You're going to be tired, agitated, annoyed, frustrated, short-tempered, shall I go on? You will say things that you probably shouldn't, but they will be things said from a bad place. Don't take these things personally, and quickly forget them. The same probably goes for the rest of the day, but that time in the middle of the night will see you at your worst.
It's important to still do things together and never see your newborn as a burden. You can still do the majority of the things you used to be able to do, maybe now it just takes a little more time and planning.
This is one that truly worked for me. Just going away with the baby to a hotel for a few nights places you in a position where you are more absorbed in the baby without all the distractions. There's no work, no visitors, no house work, and a different place that isn't the same four walls you've felt trapped in. Yes, it might seem daunting taking a young baby on a road trip, but it can easily be done, even more so if you're breastfeeding. My partner and I have been away a few times now, starting with one night in Weston, then two nights in Bournemouth, two nights in Glastonbury, and at the end of August we're travelling around the UK (with a trip to Amsterdam) for six nights, expect a travel blog for that one.
It was the best thing for me. Isabelle loved it, and even smiled for the first time on our first stay away, and I got to immerse myself in this new parenting role without any other worries. Trust me, just get out of the house and go away. It'll do wonders for your relationship with each other and the baby.
For the fifth and final way to help with PND, head over to the blog where this was originally posted. Sorry about that, it's a little cheeky. But I like to tease you that way, you can't read four ways to help and not find out the final one! Just click here to head on over to read the full thing.
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