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Family members may be the first to notice something is not quite right with a new mom. If you’ve come to this page, you may be worried someone you care about is suffering from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder such as postpartum depression. It can be very confusing, challenging, and even painful to watch your spouse, family member, or friend, react to becoming a parent in ways that you didn’t expect. Please know that the person with depression or anxiety is not to blame for this illness and that she is just as surprised as you are. Thankfully, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can be temporary and treatable with support and professional help. In this section, we hope to offer you some tools that will help you support the person who is struggling, and also help you get through this difficult time.

How to Help Mom

PSI offers some helpful information for family and friends:

  • Help her reach out to others for support and treatment.
  • Reassure her: this is not her fault; she is not alone; she will get better.
  • Encourage her to talk about her feelings and listen without judgment.
  • Help with housework before she asks you.
  • Encourage her to take time for herself. Breaks are a necessity; fatigue is a major contributing factor to worsening symptoms.
  • Don’t expect her to be super-housewife just because she’s home all day.
  • Be realistic about what time you’ll be home and come home on time.
  • Schedule regular date nights and work together to find a babysitter.
  • Offer simple affection and physical comfort but be patient if she is not up for sex. With depression, it’s normal for her to have a low sex drive ⁠—rest and recovery will help to bring it back.

Resources for Dads & Partners

Dealing with Her Anger and Irritability

  • Do what you can to make sure she eats regularly throughout the day⁠— low blood sugar results in a low mood and frustration. Have healthy and easy snacks on hand.
  • Do your best to listen for the real request at the heart of her frustration. Reduce conflict by telling her, “I know we can work this out. I am listening”.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Verbalize your feelings instead of distancing from her. It is helpful to take a break if your tempers are hot, but do get back to communicating.
  • If she is expressing anger in such a way that you can’t stay supportive, you might say something like, “I want to listen to you. I know this is important, but I’m having a hard time because you’re so mad at me. Can we take a break and talk about it later?”
  • Ask her how you can help right now. If she doesn’t know, make some suggestions.

 

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Related Article

Maryland Maternal Mental Health Task Force sends findings to Governor Larry Hogan

The Task Force to Study Maternal Mental Health has submitted its recommendations for improving prevention and care for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) in Maryland to Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly. The Assembly passed legislation in 2015 to establish the Task Force, assigning the group with identifying vulnerable populations and risk factors for PMADs and making recommendations on legislation, policy initiatives and budgetary priorities to address and improve unmet maternal mental health needs in Maryland. Read the full report here.

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