Postpartum Depression for Husbands: 9 Ways You Can Help Your Wife

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • You have a new baby. You are thrilled and want nothing more than for your wife and you to share this wonderful experience. But it seems your wife isn’t interested. She is depressed, doesn’t seem interested in holding the baby and you are frustrated that everything - baby care, household chores - are falling on you. Your wife might have postpartum depression. The following are some tips to help you cope and ways you can help her:

    Encourage your wife to see a doctor. Postpartum depression (PPD) doesn’t go away on its own, so if that is what is wrong with your wife, it is important for her to get medical treatment. Many women feel sad for the first two weeks after childbirth when hormones suddenly drop but if depression lasts longer than that, it is time to get help. PPD isn’t her fault, it isn’t your fault and it isn’t your baby’s fault. But, it is a very real illness and there is treatment. If your wife is unwilling to seek help, contact Families for Depression Awareness who can help you create a plan.

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    Learn about the symptoms of PPD.  The more you know about PPD, the more you can understand and provide support. Some of the main symptoms are:

    • Depression, frequent crying, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness or feeling overwhelmed
    • Irritability
    • Fatigue
    • Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
    • Constant worrying
    • Thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming herself
    • Thoughts of running away

    Not everyone experiences all of these symptom and not every woman experiences thoughts of harming herself. It is also important to realize that women with PPD do not harm their children, this is a separate condition postpartum psychosis and is very rare.

    Give her support. Women with PPD who have family support are more likely to recover faster than those who do not. Go to the doctor with your wife, let her know you love her, help her make decisions about her medical care. Let her know you know she feels bad. Let her know she will feel better. Tell her its okay and she is a good mother. Remind her that you are there for her. While you can’t fix the problem, you can listen and be sympathetic.

    Give her a break. You might be going to work every day and be overwhelmed yourself, but chip in at home as much as you can, doing household chores, grocery shopping or laundry. Take the baby (and older children) out of the house to give your wife time to herself. If you can’t, consider asking some friends or relatives to help out or hire someone to come in until your wife is feeling better.

    Make sure she is getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep exacerbates depression. Middle of the night feedings may be keeping your wife from getting a good nights sleep. If she isn’t breast feeding, take over at least some of these feeding times. If she is, suggest she pump milk so you can feed the baby or get the baby up, change diapers and let your wife stay in bed while you take care of the other tasks.

    Look for outside support. Just as your wife needs support, so do you. Contact the Families for Depression Awareness or Postpartum Support International for support groups in your area. If your wife isn’t interested in going, attend the meetings yourself. You’ll leave with a better sense of how you can help.

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    Take care of yourself. It can be a full time job looking after a new baby and taking care of your wife. But remember, you need to take care of yourself as well. There are websites dedicated to husbands just like you, such as the Postpartum Dads Project with information on PPD and how you can help your wife and yourself through this difficult time.

    Lastly, don’t forget to schedule some “couple time.” If you have relatives in the area, ask if they can watch the baby, and older children if you have some, for a few hours so you and your wife can spend some couple time together to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Published On: February 04, 2014