Postpartum Depression: How Partners Can Help Preserve The Marriage

If you've recently welcomed a new child into your family, you know that a baby brings change. Some of the changes are wonderful, but many women can suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety. Not only will this affect your personal life, but postpartum depression can also bring challenges to the the marriage relationship. If your partner is struggling with postpartum depression, there are some things you should do in order to safeguard your marriage.

Acknowledging The Problem

First of all, partners should realize that PPD is both real and serious. Many people who view depression from the outside do not understand it or do not know how it affects the person suffering. Marriage partners then should take steps to understand this form of depression so that they can be more understanding of what their wife is going through. You can

  • research the illness online. Getting as much information as possible will help you see that this is a serious an widespread problem for new mothers. Up to 16% of women experience depression after the birth of a child. 
  • speak with your wife's doctor about timelines/expectations that come with recovery. Patience is big part of spousal support. Knowing that this problem will not resolve itself immediately will help you to support your partner in her recovery.
  • see a marriage counselor. You can go alone or with your spouse, but a counselor will be able to give you more insight into how this illness affects your wife's ability to function on a daily basis.
  • attend support groups for partners of women who have PPD. Support from other husbands and partners will give you ideas and give you a place to vent your frustrations/stress in a safe place. 

Tackling The Problem

Your wife should receive treatment for postpartum depression, usually through a combination of counseling and medications. However, you should know how the problem will affect you relationship, as some things will change temporarily. Your wife will have feelings of guilt, sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. These feelings affect the normal parts of a marriage relationship in the following ways:

  • The wife will have lower libido. This is not the time to actively pursue sexual intimacy with your partner. Accept what is offered, but know that this level of trust and intimacy will be very difficult for her. Never become angry or purposely guilt your partner into intercourse. These will only make the overall problem worse. Speak to your marriage counselor about solutions, as sexual needs are real. Working together, you and your wife can come up with a solution by establishing open communication about the problem.
  • The house and daily chores may not get done. Because of the magnitude of negative emotions that a women with postpartum depression feels, normal "daily" tasks, like vacuuming the carpet or folding laundry may not get done. Husbands often need to pick up the slack around he house. Wives can often feel guilty that they are unable to care for their families properly. Provide positive feedback, noticing even the smallest good things she has done on a daily basis. Again, becoming angry or implementing guilt over the state of the home will not help.
  • You may not spend as much time together and communicating. A baby takes a lot of time, and you and your wive may both feel the strain of a fully dependent human being. Reduced time together is often the result, and this can affect your marriage and your spouses condition. Encourage your wife to take take time for herself, such as reading a book or visiting a friend. Also, reserve time each day to have face-to-face conversations. Your marriage counseling professional can give you communicating strategies if open communication suffers because of PPD. 

Postpartum depression is a serious problem that many women face, and some marriages have struggled because of its far-reaching effects. By taking action as a spouse, you can help to reduce the negative impact on your marriage and make it through.