The fourth trimester is an incredibly challenging and emotional time for new parents. Because of the newness of, well, everything it’s not always obvious or easy to recognize postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression. If we, as their partner, are able to identify the symptoms of postpartum anxiety and/or postpartum depression, it allows us to rally a support system for mom to get the help she needs to better address the depression or anxiety. If it goes untreated, these disorders can lead to infant and maternal consequences such as lack of mother-child interactions, bonding interruptions, or possibly disruption in breastfeeding, etc.
Being a partner of someone who is experiencing postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression can be extremely difficult. It can take its toll on your own mental health and lead to disengagement, which can create further problems. However, you are crucial to getting your family the help and resources needed to bring healthy functioning into your home. If you can catch the anxiety and depression early on, have discussions out of concern with your partner, you have a very good chance of getting things back on track and save yourselves from greater heartache, frustration, and feelings of isolation down the road.
How do you identify postpartum anxiety versus postpartum depression?
It can be really challenging to distinguish between postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Oftentimes during the postpartum period, women will experience symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Most women experiencing depression will show signs of anxiety whereas women experiencing anxiety may have severe anxious symptoms which eventually lead to depression. It is important to distinguish between the two so we can best support our loved ones effectively and appropriately during the fourth trimester.
Below are some symptoms of both, side by side; what to look for in new moms during the fourth trimester.
|Postpartum Anxiety||Postpartum Depression|
|Feeling on edge||Persistent sad moon|
|Thinking negatively||Feeling hopelessness|
|Difficulty concentrating||Feeling of worthlessness|
|Difficulty carrying out tasks||Loss of interest in pleasure|
|Muscle tension||Decreased energy|
|Sleep disturbances||Difficulty making decisions|
|Persistent worry||Loss of appetite|
|Feelings of panic||Physical symptoms of the body|
|Shortness of breath||Thoughts of suicide|
If you’ve noticed that you partner has symptoms of a mood disorder in the fourth trimester, here are a few ways you can help them:
- Practice compassion for your partner and validate their feelings
- Express gratitude and share your appreciation
- “Turn towards” your partner with bids of connection
- Create supportive environment in your home
- Keep partners involved and accept assistance from others
- Acknowledge the relationship will restructure itself after baby
- Put your baby to bed early to carve out “adult” time with your partner
- Create a team-like relationship with your partner
- Give and take within the relationship
- Take time for a date night once a week/month
- Find yourself a trusted therapist to get your own support
If you observe depressive and/or anxious symptoms in your loved one during the fourth trimester, suggest that they reach out to their OB/GYN or pediatrician during one of their postpartum check ups. Resources are also available below.
Support Groups for Postpartum Dads
Postpartum Support International
Transition to Parenthood Program
Need more help from a therapist?
Sometimes the need for support extends beyond support at home. If your partner’s symptoms are overwhelming to manage, impairing daily function, or if they simply need a listening ear, it may be time to speak with a professional therapist. If you are ready to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. We offer virtual and in-person sessions.