Information for partners, family and friends

When women give birth, they’re often expected to step straight into the role of nurturer, comforter and supporter. It's important for family and friends to realise that expectant and new mothers need comforting, nurturing and supporting too, especially if they’re feeling overwhelmed or distressed.

Some new mums become so preoccupied with their baby that they don’t realise how much they’re struggling. It’s often their partner or another family member who notices that something is wrong. Other mums may recognise how they’re feeling, but not know how to talk to anyone about it.

Whatever the situation, we know that having a supportive partner, family member or friend can make a real difference for someone experiencing anxiety or depression. 



Tips for partners

If your partner is experiencing a mental health condition, you might need to ‘take the initiative’. We’ve got a few ideas to help you get started.

  • Remember that mental health conditions are more common during pregnancy and after childbirth. Encourage your partner to see a health professional if you’re concerned about her. You may need to make the initial phone call and take her to the first appointment.
  • Choose a time when you’re both calm and not too distracted, and talk about some of the things you’ve noticed. It may be useful to look at this site together. Try to be understanding, even if you’re both tired and cranky.
  • Try to maintain good, open communication. Listen to her feelings and thoughts and find out what you can do to help.
  • Spend time listening, without feeling the need to offer solutions.
  • Fight the urge to give advice on how to parent, unless she asks for it.
  • Offer to spend time looking after the baby or older children, or discuss other childcare options so that each of you can have time to yourself.
  • Offer to help with housework like cooking and cleaning.
  • Let your partner know how well she is doing when she makes small gains.
  • Encourage your partner to use self-care strategies such as eating well, joining a mothers’ group, exercising regularly and limiting drug and alcohol use.
  • Supporting someone with depression or anxiety can be a challenge. It’s important to take time out and look after yourself too.

Tips for family and friends

  • Be available to talk, even if it’s checking in over the phone. Try to listen without the need to make suggestions or offer advice.
  • Offer to help with cooking, housework or looking after the baby (or older children), but try not to take over.
  • Be aware that while new parents may need help, they may also need some space. Being surrounded by many visitors – however well meaning – can be exhausting.
  • Encourage your loved one to look after themselves (eat well, sleep when possible, exercise).
  • Encourage the parents to seek professional help if necessary and offer to go with them to the GP or maternal and child health nurse to talk about how they’re managing with the new baby.
  • Offer whatever assistance you can. Even if they say no, keep offering – many new parents find it hard to accept support.
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