Maternal Mental Health: 6 Signs Your Partner is Struggling

Disclaimer: The information below is not intended as medical advice and is only intended to offer points you may wish to consider in 'non-emergency situations', together with signposting for more support. You should consult an appropriate medical professional if you have concerns about yours or your partner’s health. Dial 999 in an emergency if someone is in a life-threatening condition.

Many parents will admit that having a baby is the most rewarding, yet most challenging experience of their lives. For some, magical moments in the newborn bubble are days of complete bliss but for others, the adjustment period into motherhood can take longer and, in some cases, take a toll on their mental health. This is known as perinatal mental health, which is considered from the start of pregnancy until around a year after giving birth. While new fathers can also experience a decline in their mental health, in honour of Maternal Mental Health Month, this article has been written to provide information for partners to identify common symptoms in the mother of their child, as well as learn how to support them during this delicate time.

What are Perinatal Mental Health Problems?

You might be familiar with the term ‘baby blues’. Feeling down, irritable, or tearful is not uncommon for women after giving birth. In fact, up to 80% of new mothers can experience this*. Usually, symptoms pass shortly after having a baby, but if they continue, this could be indicative of a postnatal (or postpartum) mental health problem. While not an exhaustive list, some of the more common perinatal mental illnesses include:

  • Perinatal depression
  • Perinatal anxiety
  • Perinatal OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Postnatal psychosis
  • Postnatal PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

We redirect you to the Mind perinatal mental health page for more information. 

Causes of Perinatal Mental Health Problems

Major life events can be a trigger for mental health issues – pregnancy and birth included. The hormonal changes a woman’s body goes through during this time are also thought to be related to perinatal mental health.

Mental health does not discriminate. However, if your partner has previously struggled with their mental health before pregnancy, they have an increased risk of prenatal (pre-birth) or postnatal (post-birth) mental health complications. Alongside this, a lack of support, a traumatic birth, low self-esteem, a sick baby, and experiences of abuse can also contribute towards a mother becoming unwell during this time.

6 Signs Your Partner is Struggling with Their Prenatal or Postnatal Mental Health

As earlier discovered, perinatal mental health covers a variety of illnesses. However, the following list are just some of the signs to look out for:

  1. A Low Mood

A prolonged low mood can be indicative of many mental health issues. A warning sign that this could be more than baby blues is if a low mood persists for more than two weeks. 

  1. Change in Appetite

Several factors may affect an individual’s appetite such as more or less exercise, a physical health issue, or medication. A change in appetite, whether that’s eating more or less than usual, can also be telling of someone’s mental health.

  1. Trouble Sleeping

Newborn nights can be sleepless, but if you notice your partner is struggling to get much rest at all, even when there is a window for it, this could be one sign that their mental health is in decline.

  1. Having Distressing and Unwanted Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are common, even outside of the perinatal period. However, if your partner expresses that upsetting and unwanted thoughts are causing them a lot of distress and interrupting their life, this can be associated with perinatal OCD. Postnatal psychosis, on the other hand, can include delusions, where an individual believes these thoughts to be true.

  1. Withdrawal From Loved Ones

A huge lifestyle change such as having a baby can mean having less time for spending time with friends and family. But, if you notice your partner beginning to isolate themselves because they’ve lost interest in spending time with loved ones, this could be another sign they are or are becoming unwell.

  1. Low Confidence

Many new mothers can struggle with confidence after giving birth - whether that’s their confidence in their physical self, in their confidence to be an amazing parent, or anything else. If feelings of low confidence appear to be getting worse, even as months pass after having the baby, then your partner may need some additional support.

How to Support Your Partner

Your support as a partner, especially during the perinatal period can be invaluable. Communicating frequently, actively listening, lightening the load, boosting their confidence, and helping them to rest, where possible, can all help contribute towards improved mental wellbeing.

This being said, if you’re concerned about your partner’s mental health, you may want to consider reaching out to a professional. More severe illnesses such as postnatal psychosis require professional treatment, often including medication, to recover. Maternal mental health is more common than you may realise and there is never any shame in your partner seeking help or getting support as a family. Contacting your family GP is a great place to take that first step.

If you are struggling and want personal advice, our wonderful team of coaches are on hand through our Speak to an Expert service.

Related articles:

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay: A Story About Postnatal Depression

Coping with Depression During Pregnancy
 Paternal Postnatal Depression
Baby Blues vs Postnatal Depression - What's the Difference?

*Postnatal depression - UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) - GOV.UK