According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 13% of women may suffer from depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. Doctors and midwives are trained to catch the warning signs and identify potential markers that could contribute to the development of postpartum depression. However, short of the woman herself recognizing early warning signs, husbands are an oft-overlooked resource in the fight against postpartum depression. By being attentive and knowing the signs and symptoms to look for, husbands may be able to help wives and mothers suffering from postpartum depression get the help they need at an early stage.
Does your wife have a history of depression or mental illness?
While your wife should have disclosed this information to her health care provider, it may have seemed insignificant at the time. If you know that your wife has a history of mental illness or that there is a family history of depression, you should be aware that she may be more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
Are your wife’s emotions uncontrollable?
While some emotional adjustment is absolutely normal following the birth of a new baby, there comes a point where emotional changes cross the line. According to WebMD, excessive depressed mood that lasts for a two week period can be a symptom of postpartum depression when in conjunction with another symptom. If you notice that your wife seems to be crying a lot, seems depressed or hopeless, or says or seems to feel empty or riddled with guilt, these could be signs of postpartum depression.
Has your wife’s eating/sleeping/attitude changed?
In addition to emotional upheaval, men should pay attention to their wives behavior. Is your wife able to sleep? Is she eating at all, or excessively? Does she refuse your help, feeling as if she should be able to do it all? In conjunction with other symptoms, WebMD and the US Dept. of Health and Human Services each note that these can be signs of postpartum depression.
Has your wife mentioned suicide or death?
If your wife has mentioned suicide or death since the birth of a baby, contact her health care provider. Husbands should not take it upon themselves to determine whether or not these thoughts are serious. Seek medical attention.
Husbands are crucial in helping doctors, midwives, and other health care professionals identify postpartum depression. If you notice that your wife has symptoms of postpartum depression, encourage her to contact her doctor, or when that fails, contact the provider on her behalf. Postpartum depression can be treated, but only if it is identified.
USDHHS; Depression During and After Pregnancy; http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/depression-pregnancy.cfm#b
WebMD; Postpartum Depression Symptoms; http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-symptoms