Photos US Department of Health and Human Services   HHS
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

Depression During and After Pregnancy: A Resource for Women, Their Families, and Friends

How Can Perinatal Depression Affect My Baby and My Family?

The symptoms of Perinatal Depression often create a very difficult situation for families. For infants, the effects of Perinatal Depression can be serious. There is a greater chance of babies arriving too small or too early, or having problems in learning and behavior as they grow older. Older children suffer when they lose the attention and support of their mother. Loved ones suffer because they don’t know what to do or how to help. Other family members are often called upon to fill the gap. Because Perinatal Depression affects the entire family, it is critical that family members recognize the symptoms and help their loved one seek help.

Advice for Fathers, Family, and Friends

If you know a woman who has the symptoms of Perinatal Depression, this is how you can help.

As a Spouse or Partner:

  • Encourage her to seek help. This is the quickest path to recovery.
  • Offer support and encouragement. Your positive actions and words can reduce some of her suffering.
  • Listen. Her feelings are real. Let her express them to you.
  • Allow her to focus on her own needs. Physical and social activities help women suffering from Perinatal Depression feel stronger, more relaxed, and better about themselves.
  • Take time for yourself. It is important for spouses and partners to continue with their work, hobbies, and outside relationships.

As a Friend or Family Member:

  • Ask the mother how you can help, including baby-sitting and house cleaning.
  • Let her know you are there for her, even if she doesn’t like talking.
  • Understand that the father may also feel stressed from the changes that come with being a new father or by a partner who is suffering from Perinatal Depression.
  Woman deep in thought
Meeting with my support group is the best part of the week. When I found women going through the same things as me, I didn’t feel so lonely any more. Now we are moving forward together, hand in hand.
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