Partners’ postnatal psychological distress after traumatic births
Partners play a vital role in the lives of women affected by postnatal psychological and physical distress.
At this significant time for all concerned, they strive to maintain their many roles as supporter for their wives, breadwinner for the family and parent to the infant and other children, but fathers often need support themselves. They too can experience anxiety and depression.
Where there has been a traumatic delivery experience (e.g. haemorrhage, concerns about the baby’s or mother’s survival, physical damage, unexpected emergency surgical intevention), the woman may have been confused, semi-conscious or dissociated rather than fully aware of what was happening, but father is only too aware.
If your birth was traumatic, your partner has had to witness someone they love go through a distressing event that has made them fearful that their partner or baby could have died.
When either of you suffers anxiety or depressive symptoms, it is vital to consult your family doctor and arrange appropriate referral for counseling and, if necessary, medication.
Partners may also be very confused because they do not understand the nature of women’s physical injuries after birth. They may feel distressed because their attempts at being close to their partners can be misinterpreted as demands for sex. They may feel despair that there was nothing they could do to fix the problems or they may feel guilty for making her pregnant in the first place, with the result that they too avoid physical intimacy.
It is very important to ask your GP for a referral to a specialist in urogynaecology to have an accurate assessment. Take your partner with you so that the doctor can explain the damage to you both. Again, the addition of expert counselling is recommended. This will help both of you address the damage and work out a solution. Seeking help together will assist in resolution of relationship issues.