Partner Support

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Support for Partners

Adapting to Change

Understanding the importance of mental health for new partners/dads is essential. (Most of the research has been conducted on fathers to date, but we know there are many types of partners. We will use the terms dads and partners to include everyone.)

If your partner is pregnant or has recently given birth, you might feel the focus should be with them. But we know that sleep deprivation, money worries, new responsibilities, or the relationship dynamic shifting, there is a huge life change for both parents after birth.  

On top of this, dads and partners might feel guilty, knowing they aren’t the ones breastfeeding at 3am or healing from labour and birth.

You can read Scott’s story below, and his experience of managing his mental health after a traumatic birth left him with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety.

Scott’s story: Understanding the importance of mental health for new dads | Tommy’s (tommys.org)

Dealing With Stress

It is important that you talk to someone you trust about any feelings of pressure or stress and resist the temptation to try and appear strong and supportive by hiding how you feel. your birthing partner will be experiencing lots of different emotions and probably having similar worries as you, take time to talk and share how you are feeling.
Building your own support network will help you feel at ease with your worries and insecurities, this may consist of friends and family or other expectant parents at antenatal groups/clubs.

What is Perinatal Depression?

‘perinatal’ means the time immediately before and after birth. During this time perinatal depression can affect parents and is recognised as a mental health condition by doctors.

Finding out your partner is pregnant brings a roller coaster of emotions and feelings that you may have not experienced before and this can feel very unsettling at times. Becoming a parent is a life-changing event and everyone deals with that change in different ways. Sometimes dealing with these emotions can cause depression, reasons for experiencing depression depend on the individual but might include the following factors:

  • a lack of support network
  • stressful life events
  • having poor living conditions or are living in poverty
  • financial pressures
  • relationship issues with your partner
  • not getting enough sleep
  • pressures of caring for multiple children.

Symptoms of Perinatal Depression

Symptoms of perinatal depression can range from mild to severe, and are different for everyone they can include:

  • feeling sad and hopeless
  • constant exhaustion or numbness
  • not wanting to do anything
  • feeling unable to cope
  • feeling guilty for not being happy or for not coping
  • worrying that you don’t love your baby enough
  • being easily irritated
  • crying or wanting to cry more than usual
  • not wanting to eat or being unable to eat
  • binge eating
  • finding it difficult to sleep
  • lack of interest in your partner and/or baby
  • anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • finding it difficult to make decisions
  • having worrying thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
  • thinking about death.

If anything listed here feels familiar to you must talk to your GP for support and guidance on how to access possible treatment to begin to feel better. Remember there are lots of different types of treatments available to you from talking therapies to medication. There are also a wide range of organisations and support groups that offer help, seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it is a strength. Recognising you need some extra support is beneficial for yourself, your birthing partner and baby.

Mind

Mind

Mind’s Infoline 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday on 0300 123 3393.
Text them on 86463, or email [email protected].

CALM

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) offer support to any man who is down or in crisis online, over the phone on 0800 58 58 58, or on webchat.

PND Daddies

The PND Daddy runs a Twitter chat for dads who suffer with PND and need support. Join in on Tuesdays 8-9pm using #PNDDaddies.

PANDAS Dads

PANDAS Dads have a private Facebook support group to help dads going through and anxiety and/or those who are supporting their partner with perinatal mental illness.

Samaritans

Samaritans

Day or night, Samaritans are there if you need to talk. Call them on 116 123.

SMS4dads

SMS4dads gives dads information and connects them to online services by text. As well as this, every three weeks you get an interactive ‘How’s it going?” message.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Following a Traumatic Birth

If the birth of your baby was difficult, and at the time you were concerned about the safety of your partner and baby you may find that this experience has led to symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) Overview – Post-traumatic stress disorder – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

There are various treatments for post birth PTSD. Your GP will discuss these options with you, so you can make an informed decision about the best treatment for you.

More support and information

Andys Man Club run UK-wide talking groups for men.

The DadPad is a guide for new dads, developed with the NHS.

Dadsnet is the biggest network of dads in the UK.

Dope Black Dads is a digital safe space for fathers who wish to discuss their experiences of being black, a parent and masculinity in the modern world.

The Hub of Hope is the UK’s leading mental health support database. It brings local, national, peer, community, charity, private and NHS mental health support and services together in one place.

Changes in Your Relationship

Pregnancy and having a new baby can put a strain on relationships and lead to arguments. You may find added pressures such as finance and worrying about your partner’s wellbeing can make relationships feel different and unsettled. You may notice that your partner is feeling negative towards their changing body and may feel less attractive or less interested in sex. These thoughts and feelings are all valid and completely normal. Being open and honest with each other will help you both feel as if you are working together and supporting each other through your pregnancy and parental journey. Sometimes just being listened to and heard without judgment is enough.

Being an LGTBQ+ partner 

Some LGTBQ+ parents feel that the healthcare system has made positive changes in personalising care to suit their needs as a family, however, we know that there are still some challenges and progress to be made in ensuring that care providers understand and appreciate the diversity within LGTBQ+ families.

Talking to your midwife/doctor early on in your maternity care journey about the kind of language you would like them to use in referring to your family set up and your parental roles is the best place to start. If you wish your preference can be recorded in your maternity notes so there will be no need to keep describing your situation over and over again as you meet new health professionals involved in your care.

You may find some of the following information helpful

https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/being-pregnant/pregnancy-trans-and-non-binary-parents

Support and information

The following organisations offer information and guidance, as well as shared experineces from other LGBTQ+ couples.

LGBT Mummies  information on planning for a baby and support groups for LGBT+ families.

Stonewall information on parental responsibility, adopting, fostering, co-parenting, fertility treatment and surrogacy.

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