Emotional difficulties in women during pregnancy and after delivery are surprisingly common. For example, studies consistently show that approximately 14 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression (Paulson, Dauber, and Leiferman 2006). In addition, some studies have found around 16 percent of women will experience clinically significant anxiety symptoms after delivery (Wenzel et al. 2005). Therefore, there’s a good possibility that your partner will struggle with one or more of these emotional issues while pregnant or following the birth of your child.

If your partner is struggling with anxiety or depression, you may feel lost and confused. You want to know how you can help. Below, we’ve listed five key ways you can provide some much-needed support to your partner as the two of you become parents.


Pregnancy and new motherhood is a time of tremendous change for women. During this time, she’s experiencing physical and emotional changes, she’s terrified about her new responsibilities, and she’s fearful that her performance as a mother will be inadequate. It is difficult to see your partner going through this experience, and you may feel helpless to make things better. You may try to help her feel better, but your attempts to “fix” things will often be rejected (Morgan et al. 1997). Rather than becoming frustrated that your efforts to solve problems are not always appreciated, know that one of the best strategies you can use at this time is to just listen and hear how difficult things are for her. Simply let her know you care for her, and that you will go through this with her.


Your partner may have the symptoms such as panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, or excessive worry. Or she may have symptoms of postpartum depression. As a result, she may lose interest in interacting with her child or may tend only to the baby while completely neglecting her own needs. Although it’s important not to overreact to minor symptoms, such as occasional crying or sadness, if your partner exhibits symptoms of anxiety or depression most of the day for a week or two, take action, because it may be a sign of a more serious problem.

If your partner is suffering from depression or anxiety, you might wonder why she’s feeling that way. After all, having a child may be something she desperately wanted. The two of you may have gone to great lengths to get pregnant. And there’s certainly a lot of joy that comes with a child. These factors may make your partner’s negative emotions all the more puzzling and frustrating.

Although no one knows for sure why some new moms get depressed or anxious, researchers have uncovered some risk factors (Robertson et al. 2004), including the following:

· Depression during pregnancy
· Anxiety during pregnancy
· Stressful life events during pregnancy or shortly after delivery
· Lack of social support
· History of anxiety or depression

Pay particular attention if your partner has one or more of these risk factors. You can also discuss these risk factors with her. Of course, your partner can also develop anxiety or depression without these risk factors, so be on the lookout for symptoms. Encourage her to talk with her physician if you’re concerned.


If you have a partner who is suffering from postpartum anxiety or depression, help her get appropriate treatment from a medical or mental health professional. It may be tempting to go it alone and try to solve her problems on your own, but remember that postpartum anxiety and depression are real—and treatable—medical conditions and should be addressed as such. Just as you wouldn’t try to treat any other serious illness yourself, you should not try to deal with your partner’s postpartum anxiety and depression symptoms without the guidance of a health care provider.

What about suicide? The grim truth is that new moms suffering from postpartum depression are at significant risk for committing suicide. If you suspect that your partner may be having thoughts of suicide, get help immediately. If the danger is imminent, call 911 or get her to the nearest emergency room.


As renowned relationship expert John Gottman (1999) wrote in his best-selling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “Men have to do more housework!” Household help is particularly needed during the pregnancy and postpartum period. These are especially busy times: cribs need assembling, diapers need changing, clothes need folding, and bottles need washing. Believe it or not, simply doing more around the house can go a long way toward providing much-needed support for your partner.

Helping out can take many forms. Here are some specific ways you can give Mom a hand:

· Change diapers
· Feed your baby
· Prepare a meal
· Do the dishes
· Take the garbage out
· Shop for groceries
· Return phone calls
· Do laundry
· Clean the bathroom


How do some moms build that unbreakable bond with their children? The answer is simple. They form that connection by responding, moment by moment, to their child’s needs. In other words, they focus intensely on caring and responding to their child.

Connecting with your child in this way is known as attachment parenting (Sears and Sears 2001) and it’s one of the best things you can do for your child, yourself, and your spouse. And the good news is that attachment parenting isn’t just for moms. Dads too can take advantage of this method of caring for your child. The only rule is to respond quickly and effectively to your child’s need for food, comfort, stimulation, and physical contact. So hold your baby. Talk to her. Sing to her. Pick her up when she cries. Feed her when she’s hungry. Rock her to sleep. Read a story to her. Give her a massage. Play with her. Bathe her. By giving her this intense attention, you’ll be building a bond with your child, moment by moment, that will last a lifetime. You’ll also be helping your partner by encouraging your child to attach to you as well as Mom.


Excerpt from THE PREGNANCY AND POSTPARTUM ANXIETY WORKBOOK: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions, and Compulsions (New Harbinger Publications)

Author's Bio: 

Pamela S. Wiegartz, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she teaches courses in cognitive behavioral therapy, directs the obsessive-compulsive disorder clinic, and maintains a practice dedicated to treating individuals with anxiety disorders. She is coauthor of 10 Simple Solutions to Worry. Visit her online at anxietyandocdtreatment.com

Kevin L. Gyoerkoe, Psy.D., is codirector of the Anxiety and Agoraphobia Treatment Center. He is coauthor of 10 Simple Solutions to Worry.

Foreword writer Laura J. Miller, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC), and associate head of the department of psychiatry.