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How to Support Your Newly Postpartum Partner

Updated: May 25

Welcoming a baby into the world can be a mixed experience of joy, immense change, and adjustment. While so much attention is given to the physical well-being of your partner during pregnancy, very little is given to emotional and mental health during the postpartum period. If you're a partner of a new parent and you're here reading this, thank you - because supporting your partner is one of the best possible ways to ensure they feel loved, understood, and empowered during this transformative time. By standing by their side, offering a listening ear, and advocating for their mental health needs, you not only strengthen your bond as a couple but also create a nurturing environment for your growing family. Remember, your support can make all the difference in helping your partner navigate the ups and downs of postpartum life with resilience.

What Happens During the Postpartum Period?

For the purpose of this blog post, we'll focus on the first 12 weeks postpartum.

Physically, your partner's body is going through remarkable changes. There is pain and recovery, but also massive hormonal changes. Estrogen and progesterone plummet as soon as the placenta leaves, potentially leading to sleep disturbances, mood changes, fatigue, and vaginal dryness. Oxytocin, on the other hand, increases to compensate for this drop. This can help decrease bleeding, assist with breastfeeding and milk production, and increase bonding.

Emotionally, your partner might experience moments of overwhelming love coupled with moments of doubt or anxiety. Your partner might experience the baby blues, which affect up to 80% of new birthing parents, as well as potential PMAD's (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders). These are influenced by sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, and adjustment to parenthood, so your presence, reassurance, and active listening can provide a major sense of comfort and stability.

How to support partner postpartum

As the partner, you can have a major role in postpartum recovery. Let's talk about some ways to start.

1) Encourage self-care practices. When cleared, gentle exercise is an amazing form of taking care of body and mind. Going for short walks, finding a great youtube stretching video, or looking for postpartum yoga classes is a great place to start.

2) Help with meals. If cooking isn't your thing, consider setting up a meal train. Cooking ahead of time can be helpful, too. Consider making some snack baskets for your partner as well.

3) Assist in facilitating adequate rest. Ideally, your partner will have a 4-5 hour sleep cycle every day, even if nursing, no matter what time of day; this allows them to have a full cycle of sleep. Consider "sleep shifts" and providing uninterrupted sleeping time. 4) Active involvement. Help with newborn care, household tasks, and caregiving responsibilities.

5) Monitor for development of PMAD's. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorders impact 1 in 7 birthing individuals. More on that below.

6) Encourage your partner reach out to providers as necessary. There are so many resources out there to support your partner, and sometimes a simple suggestion can help form these connections. Lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, sleep consultants, and pelvic floor physical therapists are all great resources that exist.

Remember, your willingness to be present, listen attentively, and offer practical assistance will help your partner through this time immensely.

Monitoring for Postpartum Mental Health Challenges

Postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 7 women, making it one of the most common complications of childbirth. Partners might experience other PMAD's as well, such as postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, or postpartum psychosis. You, as the partner, can play a critical role in helping monitor and support. If you notice your partner is experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, fear, intrusive thoughts, trouble sleeping, or trouble bonding with the baby, please encourage them to reach out to a maternal mental health therapist or their OBGYN. If you need help finding a therapist, the PSI directory is a great place to start.

Postpartum Psychosis

Although very rare, postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention. If you notice your partner not making sense, hallucinating, having a decreased need for sleep, please go to the emergency room right away.

Final words: Maternal mental health is a vital but often overlooked aspect of the postpartum experience. By supporting your partner through their postpartum journey, you can make all the difference in their mental health and overall well-being.

This blog is not a substitute for advice from a licensed healthcare professional. If you are in crisis, please call 911, 988, or go to your nearest emergency room.

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