Your Relationship With Your Partner
Couples often talk about feeling closer in the days after the birth when they are excited and feeling joyful about their new baby. However, after a period of time, usually within the first months, interrupted sleep, increased household responsibilities, and work and financial pressures lead many couples to report a significant increase in personal stress. Each partner feels both their own individual stresses and the stresses on the family system as a whole. Sometimes, this can lead to increased conflict, relationship problems, and sometimes poor mental health outcomes. Some new fathers who are in paid work cope by working more or getting home from work later in the day to avoid the household responsilities and potential conflict with their partner. Of course, this does not resolve the issues, and in fact it could make them worse with time. A more positive step is to have a talk with your partner at the earliest signs of stress and discuss how you can work together to better manage these normal changes that can occur.
Will I ever have sex again?
Although many men talk about the changes in the frequency of sex following their arrival of their new baby, there may also be an underlying need for affection, closeness, and intimacy with their partner. Some fathers may struggle with this aspect of their experience after their child is born. Some normal and expected changes can be:
- Physical changes to your partner’s body.
- Changes in the way that you and your partner now view your sex life, and this view can be very different between men and women post-birth.
- Your partner feeling and expressing that she is “all touched out” because of breastfeeding, handling the baby, and settling activities
- You may be confused about your partners breast ‘status’, their changes, and their role in breastfeeding but maybe not in relation to sexual intimacy (as may have been the case).
- Postnatal Depression (PND). Research has shown that there may be a significant decrease in sexual interest when a person is experiencing depression and/or using anti-depressant medication. Many couples report these are difficult issues to openly discuss. It can be useful to use a counsellor or other professional support to provide a neutral and safe place where these discussions can take place.
It is very important for couples to openly discuss their roles within the home and outside the home. These roles automatically change once a baby comes along. Three areas of change in time-demands include paid work, house work, and daily infant care. If you are a father who wants to be actively involved in your baby’s life, working long hours will be a potential barrier to that goal. Also, it may be unhealthy for your partner to be spending all her time at home caring for the baby, at the expense of previously enjoyed activities like exercise, socialising, lunch dates, and sport. It is helpful to discuss how the increased workload will be shared. Also, both partners can try to respect the amount of the work that the other is putting in, whether it’s paid or unpaid, and cooperate together as a team. Open communication, planning, and flexibility can help to alleviate the stress of parenting in the early years and make the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
Extended family on yours and your partner’s sides can be very supportive, practically and emotionally. At other times they might be intrusive and tiring. This can be a delicate area at the time of parenting a new baby because each partner will often like to have the support of his or her own family. It may be helpful to discuss this area with your partner. What support do you need? What do you both want? A useful rule of thumb is to accept any reasonable offer of support, because it can help so much in the early period. However, ultimately it is up to you and your partner to decide what’s best for your new family and how you want to manage the everyday needs of parenting.
Postnatal Depression, Anxiety and Stress (PND)
Having a new baby increases the risk for PND-related problems, in both new mothers and fathers. In fact, up to 1 in every 6 new mums in Australia can experience PND – and about half of all of their partners! A new baby coming into your life is a joyful, happy, amazing time and sometimes one of the most challenging. If you feel that you or your partner may be suffering depression, anxiety, or undue stress, make sure that you talk to each other and maybe supportive, understanding friends and family about your concerns. If you think that it’s not something that you can deal with on your own or with your partner and family, then seek out some professional support. Don’t let things go on for too long, recovery can be hard for many. Getting advice and information for yourself and your partner is a strong, positive action to take.
For support you can contact...
Your local child health nurse: 1800 022 222
The Ngala Helpline (including DadsWA): (08) 9368 9368
Beyondblue Australia: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=94
Post Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA): 1300 726 306 http://www.panda.org.au/
The West Australian Perinatal Mental Health Unit: (08) 9340 1795