Postpartum Depression (PPD) is one of the most common pregnancy complications in women. In fact, 1 in 7 mothers will suffer from it. Thankfully, there has been much emphasis and growing support for women to heal from PPD, but there needs to be just as much focus on dads and partners too. Why? Several recent studies have found that over 10% of men reported symptoms of depression following the birth of a child, suggesting that PPD is almost as common for fathers as it is for mothers.
Even though PPD is 100% curable and treatable when caught in time, the U.S. is still far behind in helping support all parents during the new-baby transition…especially once they arrive home.
I’ve worked with hundreds of families across
the U.S., providing support for mothers, partners and their babies once they
arrive home from the hospital. During these vulnerable first weeks, we’ve seen mom’s hospitalized due to infection, babies readmitted because of feeding issues and we have even had to call 911 when severe PPD presents. Mothers have only 1 follow up visit to their physician after birth. Fathers and partners have none, and yet 25% of dads report postnatal depression symptoms.
That’s why Family-Centered Care, not just mom care, needs to be the priority focus after baby.
A simple two-hour postpartum visit by a Registered Nurse can change lives. Besides lowering readmission rates and helping to establish feeding, RN’s identify the signs of PPD in both mom and dad. When these signs are caught early and treated, we eliminate the chances of weeks and months of unnecessary depression.
Friends and family can also help after baby arrives. Here are 5 ways to help new parents:
Ask Dad how he is doing – A simple but genuine interest in how dad is responding to his new role can help him feel connected and identify potential postpartum issues.
Have your local resources on hand – If you suspect a parent is suffering from depression, know who to contact for help. This can be a primary care physician, a local support group or the hospital where baby was born.
Continually check in with both parents – Keeping contact with parents after the initial visit after baby’s birth shows them they are not alone.
Tell both parents to sleep – Taking a break from baby does not mean doing chores or running errands. Mom and Dad should both take a nap while you care for baby or tidy up as restorative sleep helps both physical and mental health.
Be Specific – Oftentimes parents -and yes especially dads- have trouble stating specific needs because asking for help seems weak or is an imposition. Telling the parents: “I’ll be over tomorrow afternoon with dinner and I’ll watch the baby from 2p-4p,” makes help much easier to accept.
Focusing on the entire family unit not only helps that family, it helps all of us.