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Support for partners

In this article, we look at support for partners of women with young children.
A couple holding their newborn baby.
© Trinity College Dublin

Becoming a mother is a profound and challenging experience involving physical, social, emotional, hormonal and psychological changes. We know that good support from a strong social network can help women manage the challenges of motherhood and thrive in their new role.

If you are in a relationship, you will be sharing a lot of these new experiences with your partner. This may be the father or co-parent, if you are in a same-sex relationship, of your child.

Becoming a parent is a major life change. Your partner will also be entering into an unfamiliar and exciting time in their life, and will likely face many of the challenges that new mothers experience. They will have disrupted sleep, questions and worries about the wellbeing of their child, less time for themselves, their intimate relationship or social life, and increased pressure as they transition into this new responsibility-filled role.

All of this can have an impact on mental health, and many of the factors that increase a woman’s risk of experiencing postnatal depression also increase a father’s or partner’s risk of experiencing depression after the birth. In fact, one study that focused on fathers, not same sex partners, showed that approximately 10% of fathers experienced depression and 20% experienced anxiety in the postpartum period (Edward et al., 2015).

Despite research showing that partners experience depression and anxiety at rates similar to those in mothers, there are few resources available from social or healthcare systems, that offer advice, guidance and support to partners.

It is just as important for partners, as new parents, to receive social and emotional support, and the advice for partners in seeking help for themselves is similar to the advice offered for mothers. Encourage your partner to:

  • Share their feelings, thoughts and worries with someone they trust: this can be family, friends, a health professional or counsellor.
  • Seek out their peer group: making friends with people in similar situations helps to create a sense of community. Talking with other dads or parents can be reassuring when entering a new chapter in life.
  • Take time for themselves: having time to maintain hobbies, social activities or sports, is as important for partners to de-stress as it is for mothers.
  • Exercise: even a small amount of regular exercise has a positive effect on physical and mental health.

Below are some resources where your partner can find information and support so you might like to share these with them.

© Trinity College Dublin
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Women’s Health After Motherhood

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