You can play a key role in helping your partner with their mental health. You will probably notice any changes in your partner's behaviour before anyone else. You can support them in getting the help they need, for example by talking to the midwife, health visitor or GP.
There are many ways that you can help which we have listed below.
Key message to give your partner
Give reassurance. It's easy for you both to feel helpless. Remember to look after yourselves.
Ways to help your partner
Sometimes it can be very difficult to know how to help your partner. You may feel whatever you say or do, is not helping them to feel better. You may feel you have tried many different things but none have worked.
Some parents say "Supporting someone with a mental illness is one of the biggest challenges."
Encourage them to seek professional help. Maternal mental health problems can be serious but they can get better.
It is natural to feel like you should be able to help fix your partner's distress. It's very likely they will need more treatment and support than you can provide alone.
Try to focus on providing practical and emotional support, and ensure that they receive these extra services.
How can you help?
- Listen to your partner and be there
- Understand this is not their fault or yours, but a real illness
- Remind your partner that they will get better
- Be involved with your partner's care to gain understanding
- Be patient and kind
- Encourage them to work out what needs doing now and what can wait
Other practical things you can help with that will make a huge difference after the birth of your baby:
- Invite visitors when you feel ready and comfortable
- Encourage your partner to take rest and time out for themselves
- Cook a meal and help with night feeds
- Offer to take the baby out for a walk or round to friends
- Remember to tell your partner you love them
Symptoms which may indicate that your partner has a more serious mental health problem:
- New thoughts of self harm. Don't worry about asking your partner if they have thoughts about harming themselves. They might be relieved to be able to talk about it. Sometimes people can look up ways to complete a suicide. If you're worried about their mood and they are spending a lot of time on the internet then try asking them what they are looking at.
- Sudden onset or rapidly worsening mental symptoms. Perinatal illnesses can start really quickly and an individual can deteriorate fast. If your partner is acting strangely look at the symptoms on Postpartum Psychosis and talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
- Persistent feelings of detachment from their baby. This may mean that your partner doesn't want to be near the baby or to do any of care. They might start saying something like 'I'm not a good enough parent to look after the baby'. Again, you need to tell a health a professional and get help as soon as possible.
If you are aware of any of these you need to make sure that your partner gets specialist help. If they start at the weekend get help straight away through the out of hours GP service (call 111). Don't wait until Monday morning.
Visit our page on 'Looking after yourself' for more information on where you can access mental health support.