If it’s your first child, you’re learning how to be a parent together. You’re learning how to interpret the baby’s needs. If you already have a child or more than one child, you’re adjusting to caring for another baby in a busy household. You’re navigating the emotional rollercoaster together from highs to lows and back again. On top of that you’re most likely sleep-deprived.
You might be experiencing unexpected differences in how you each want to care for your baby. Perhaps one of you believes in breastfeeding in public and the other doesn’t. Or one believes the baby should be left to settle itself, while the other wants to rock the little one to sleep. Perhaps you’ve never discussed these issues before. Bringing them up now can sometimes cause conflict and tension. And if other issues are in the mix, such as financial stress, issues at work, social or physical isolation, or issues with extended family, we know that it can add an extra layer of stress to your relationship with your partner.
Specific challenges for partners who are new parents
As partners, many new parents have to deal with some or all of the issues listed above. However, if one or both of you develop postnatal depression or anxiety, there will be other serious issues to address.
You may notice:
- Changes in the mood and personality of ‘the person you thought you knew’.
- Loss of emotional intimacy: your partner might withdraw or push you away.
- Increased/extreme neediness. This can be frustrating for a partner who already feels pressure from work or the new baby.
- Increased physical stress from being the main carer (cooking, cleaning, loss of sleep, working and looking after a new baby).
- Changes in your sex life: anxious or depressed people commonly lose interest in or lack the energy for sex.
More than half of callers to PANDA’s National Helpline report issues in their relationship with their partner are causing them distress. So if this is happening to you, you are not alone. It’s an extremely common problem – but support is available.
Tips for partners
- Try to keep communicating. Talk sympathetically about what is happening and try to avoid blame.
- The best thing you can provide for your partner at this time is emotional support. Try to be gentle and encouraging.
- Take an active role in caring for your baby.
- Remember that the symptoms your partner is experiencing are due to illness rather than faults in your relationship.
- Now is not the best time to be making big life decisions about things like your relationship, career or your house.
- Reassure your partner that you understand any loss of interest in sex for the time being. There may be other ways of expressing intimacy.
- Looking after yourself and your own health is really important and will help you be the best support for your partner.
- Accept offers of help from family or friends.
We form all kinds of relationships during our lives. Apart from our partners, husbands or wives, we build bonds with family, friends and work colleagues. We know all of these relationships can be affected by the arrival of a new baby – some more than others. Some relationships might strengthen, others might weaken; some might adjust to the changes, while others might fall away completely.
These changes can affect your emotional and mental well-being. If they do, and your feelings of anxiety or low mood start affecting your day to day functioning for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek help from a trusted health professional.