Partners and Support Systems

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2023

Editor’s Note: For simplicity and ease of reading, in this community, we use the term “mothers” to refer to pregnant people and those who have given birth. But we want to acknowledge that not all people who can get pregnant identify as women and that some people who give birth identify as men or nonbinary. We also recognize that parenthood exists in many forms, including adoptive and foster parenthood. Health Union strives to create an inclusive space while providing accurate health information.

Welcoming a new baby into the world usually is a joyful and life-changing experience. But it can also bring about significant changes and challenges, including postpartum depression (PPD).1

PPD is a common form of depression that affects mothers. But it can also impact their partners and support systems. In fact, studies show that new fathers and partners can experience many of the same PPD symptoms as new mothers.1

Recognizing warning signs

Learning the warning signs of PPD in your partner – and in yourself – is the first step in providing much-needed support. Some common signs to watch out for include:1-3

  • Persistent sadness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Loss of interest in activities you/they once enjoyed
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or unexplained aches and pains

Ways to help a partner with PPD

Overcoming postpartum depression starts with open and compassionate communication. People with PPD may not recognize the warning signs in themselves. If you think your loved one has PPD, encourage them to express their feelings and concerns. Listen without judgment, and offer empathy and support.1,2

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The good news is that PPD is a treatable condition. Encourage your partner to speak with a healthcare provider or mental health expert who specializes in PPD. They do not have to suffer in silence.1,2

If your loved one is living with postpartum depression, make sure you are sharing responsibilities. Taking care of a newborn is a demanding task. Help ease the burden by sharing household chores and childcare duties. This will give your partner breaks to rest and sleep.2

Self-care is critical during this time – for both you and your partner. Encourage your partner to take short breaks, practice relaxation techniques, and take part in activities that bring them joy. If you have other children, use available supports to watch other little ones to reduce caregiver strain.2

Challenges of caring for someone with PPD

Caring for a partner with postpartum depression can be emotionally draining. Here are some common challenges you may face:2

  • Feeling helpless – It is natural to want to "fix" the situation. But PPD is not something you can cure on your own. Accept that professional help is needed.
  • Strained relationships – PPD can strain relationships, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts. Remember that PPD is an illness, not a personal failure.
  • Self-neglect – Caregivers often put their own needs on hold. But neglecting self-care can lead to burnout and make it harder to support your partner.

Coping with caregiving and preventing burnout

Taking care of yourself is crucial when supporting a partner with PPD. Here are some strategies to help you cope and prevent burnout.2,3

Educate yourself

Learn more about PPD to better understand what your partner is going through. Knowledge can help reduce feelings of helplessness.2,3

Set boundaries

Know your limits, and communicate them with your partner. It is okay to ask for help from family or friends when you need it.2,3

Prioritize self-care

You must take good care of yourself before you can take good care of anyone else. Self-care can look like:2,3

  • Making time for activities you enjoy
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Joining a support group for caregivers

Resources for the caregiver community

There are many resources out there for caregivers and partners of those with PPD. Some to check out are:2,3

  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) – Provides valuable information, support meetings for moms, dads, and partners, and resources for both people with PPD and their caregivers
  • The Postpartum Stress Center – An online support group where caregivers can share their experiences and find support
  • Mental Health America (MHA) – Offers countless support groups and hotlines through their website. This is a safe space where people can come together and share their stories.
  • Therapy or counseling – Helps you navigate the challenges of caregiving and provides coping strategies

You are not alone

Supporting a partner with postpartum depression can be a challenging journey. But it is also a crucial one. By recognizing warning signs, offering support, and taking care of yourself, you can help your partner make a full recovery. Remember that you are not alone. There are resources and communities available to assist you in this important role.1-3