Are you a new parent? Then, get ready for the ride of a lifetime — in a good way (mostly). This partner's guide to postpartum support will offer your tips and ideas for easing the stress of new parenthood on your relationship.
The first few weeks after having a baby can be overwhelming for both parents. As a new parent, you are probably feeling a range of emotions. You may be elated one minute and then feel like you're about to lose your mind the next.
The reality is that everyone experiences challenges following childbirth. The transition to parenthood is not always easy, and it may even push you and your partner to the edge of your very sanity.
Here's what the toxic positivity parenting magazines and polished social media influencers won't tell you about new parenthood — 83 percent of new parents experience moderate to severe crisis levels after entering parenthood. In other words, it’s normal if you and your partner are hot messes right now.
If you’re trying to figure out how in the world you're supposed to take care of a new baby and a recovering new mama, you've come to the right place. Increasing your awareness of postpartum effects and actively striving to support your partner is an incredible first step. So let’s get started!
Accept Postpartum Realities
If you're expecting to enjoy the same levels of free time, energy, and intimacy you had before your partner gave birth, then it's time for a reality check. The postpartum period lasts from the time the baby is born to one year or more. Your partner's physical recovery can take between six weeks and three months, but her mental and emotional recovery may take longer.
Understand that some aspects of life will be challenging for a while, such as:
Lack of sleep
Disinterest in sex
This list isn't exhaustive, but you get the idea. So take a deep breath and make space for some grace. Remember, these issues are only temporary and should pass with time.
Be Aware of Postpartum Mental Health Challenges
There are instances where postpartum issues require professional help. For example, postpartum depression (PPD) is a mental health disorder that can develop after childbirth. It's estimated that up to one in five new mothers experience PPD, and it can also affect fathers and non-birthing partners.
PPD symptoms in new mothers can include:
Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
Changes in appetite or weight
Severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with the baby
Feelings of worthlessness, shame, and guilt
Postpartum anxiety is another perinatal mental health disorder that can affect new parents. Postpartum anxiety symptoms can present similarly to PPD but with a focus on anxiety-provoking thoughts and feelings of impending doom.
Postpartum psychosis is another rare but serious mental health condition that can occur after childbirth. Postpartum psychosis symptoms can include:
If you're noticing any changes in your partner's mental health, talk to her about it and encourage her to seek professional help if necessary.
Lookout for Postpartum Physical Challenges
In addition to the mental and emotional challenges of postpartum, many women also experience physical challenges. Partners need to be aware of these so you can offer support where necessary.
Some common physical challenges your partner may experience postpartum include:
Muscle aches and pains
Perineal tearing or episiotomy pain
As a partner, you can't do much to help with many of these physical challenges directly, but you can offer support in other ways. For example, you can take on additional household responsibilities, so your partner can rest or help her find resources like a perineal cold pack or hot bath for relief from discomfort. Your small efforts to offer comfort and support will go a long way.
How to Support a Postpartum Partner
The most important thing you can offer your partner is physical and emotional support as she recovers from childbirth. While your individual partner's needs may differ, a few standard pieces of advice are sure to help all new mamas across the board.
1. Be patient
Postpartum recovery takes time, and it's essential to be patient with your partner as she heals both physically and emotionally. If she seems forgetful, scattered, over-emotional, or overwhelmed, cut her some slack and do what you can to ease her mind.
Talk to your partner about her needs and how you can best support her. Postpartum is a time of many changes, and it can be challenging to adjust. Open communication will help you both navigate this time more smoothly.
3. Express love in new ways
Learn your partner's love language and try out some novel ways of showing her you care. For example, if she prefers physical touch, offer her back rubs or draw her up a warm bubble bath.
4. Help out around the house
Postpartum recovery is exhausting, so do what you can to lighten your partner's load. For example, take on some extra household chores or run errands for her so she can focus on taking care of herself and the baby.
Postpartum can be a time of many emotions, so offer a listening ear when your partner wants to talk. Just being there for her can make a big difference. Try active listening techniques to make her feel understood.
6. Encourage her to seek professional help
If you're concerned about your partner's mental health or physical recovery, encourage her to seek professional help. Postpartum health challenges are common, and there is no shame in seeking help.
Rekindling a Close Connection
Postpartum can be a time when many couples feel they have lost the closeness they once shared. But once you establish more of a balance in sharing household duties and parenthood tasks, you will find more time to devote to each other.
If you're looking for ideas to help rekindle your connection, here are some to get you started.
Find ways to nurture your relationship outside of the bedroom.
Make an effort to talk about things other than the baby or household chores.
Schedule regular date nights, even if it's just a movie night at home.
Be affectionate with each other, both physically and emotionally.
Share your feelings and concerns openly with each other.
Listen to each other without judgment.
Respect each other's needs and boundaries.
Working together as a team will help you feel supported and connected during this time. Postpartum recovery is a process, but it's one that you can go through together. By offering support, understanding, and patience, you can help your partner adjust to this new stage of life and rekindle your connection.
If you're a partner struggling with postpartum support, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Great Lakes Counseling Group offers resources and support for both partners. We can help you navigate through the transition to parenthood while also nurturing your ability to connect romantically with one another.
Call 833-934-3573 for your free, no-obligation consultation. Or, click below to schedule your first appointment.