Chrissy Teigen recently made headlines when she revealed her once private battle with postpartum depression in an essay for Glamour Magazine. This essay challenged the stigma and shame that often surrounds the subject of mental health, pregnancy and childbirth, inspiring many women to come forward and to share their own struggles and stories. Chrissy’s story is the story of many women who feel blindsided by their internal emotional battle surrounding what it is anticipated to be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, childbirth.
According to the Center for Disease Control, one out of nine women experience postpartum depression. Though the relationship between depression and the postpartum period has long been documented, many woman are unaware of postpartum depression symptoms. Additionally, many couples are unsure of how to mitigate maternal postpartum depression.
So you may be wondering, what exactly is postpartum depression? Postpartum depression is characterized by sadness, loss of interest, appetite disturbance and sleep deficit beyond that required for the care of baby. Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression symptoms can include excessive concern for one’s baby, constant fatigue and anxiety or irritability beginning within four weeks after delivery (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Traditionally, postpartum depression prevention and treatment identifies woman as the patient. However, one of the most identified risk and mitigating factors for postpartum depression is romantic relationship quality. In short, we need to begin to broaden the conversation about postpartum depression to include couples. So how can you and your partner cultivate connection in the midst of postpartum depression?
Learn more as a couple
Just because a mother is the one experiencing postpartum depression, does not mean she should be the only one reading and learning about her struggle. As a couple, carve out time to read about postpartum depression and have conversations about articles or books you have read. Some great articles can be found here and here.
Cultivate a safe space
For mothers battling postpartum depression, it is so important to have a safe space where they can describe their internal experiences free from judgement. Schedule regular uninterrupted times where you as a couple discuss one another’s experiences and struggles. Though you may not be able to identify with each other’s experiences, you can still validate each other’s story. Couple’s therapy can be ideal for cultivating this kind of safety.
Join a support group
Many women believe the postpartum depression is a battle that can or must be faced alone. This is not true! There are many support groups for mothers as well as for partners affected by postpartum depression. A listing of postpartum depression support groups can be found here and here.
Finally, if you or a loved one is experiencing or believed to be at risk for postpartum depression, know that help is available. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.
Written by, Ruth Jackson, Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy