New Dads: Caring for a Postnatal Wife

Adjustments, Adjustments, Adjustments!

ages & stages treeThe birth of a child is a joyous thing. Unfortunately for the mother, this joy might take a little while to sink in. Besides physical discomfort, it is common for mothers to experience many emotional and psychological changes as well.

By understanding these changes, dads will be better equipped to handle them and provide the support that their wife needs.

Childbirth is strenuous on the body and some time is needed to recover from it. After childbirth, a mother’s lower body will be sore and there will be bleeding. Examples of physical irritations include afterpains, which are common as the uterus is shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size.

Naturally, a mother will be anxious to shed off the weight gained during pregnancy and her self-esteem might be at a low if she is not losing the weight quickly enough. It is especially important to constantly reassure your wife, as her emotions are prone to fluctuations at this point.

Also, if the baby needs to be hospitalised, it can be traumatising for a mother to witness her baby being prodded with tubes and laid bare under the scrutiny of UV light. Mothers might blame themselves for their baby’s plight. It is the dad’s job to provide support to mums in a crisis like this.
Reassuring her that it is not her fault is crucial to prevent the guilt from becoming self destructive for the mother. Comforting words can do wonders as well. In times like this, mothers need to know that they are not in this alone.

Changing Roles & Emotions

After childbirth, mothers will need to recover not only physically, but emotionally as well. Although tired, mothers also have to quickly adapt to their new role as their child’s caregiver.  It is perfectly normal for your wife to feel moody and depressed.

These emotions are due to hormonal imbalances, caused by a plunge in the ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone after childbirth.  It may be difficult to differentiate between normal emotional changes and a more serious case of baby blues.

Dads should be on the lookout for signs of postpartum depression (PPD), more commonly known as postnatal depression, which is a form of clinical depression that affects women after childbirth.
Although every woman may exhibit different signs, typical symptoms of PPD include feelings of detachment, inadequacy, obsessive thoughts, hopelessness and irregular sleep and eating patterns.

Dr. Susan S. Bartell, an expert advisor for national publications such as Baby Years and Pregnancy and Women’s Health,advises dads to encourage their wives to talk about their feelings, as this will help them feel less overwhelmed.

Other things that dads can do to help include making sure mums get enough rest and eat healthily. If the symptoms persist, it is recommended that couples seek professional help.

Confinement –Recuperation Time or “Doing Time”

Dads should also take time off from work where possible to make sure that mum and baby are settled in. While many Singaporean fathers lament the absence of mandatory paternity leave, recent changes to entitle all parents – including fathers – to six days of paid annual childcare leave if their child is below the age of seven, should be a welcome opportunity for dads to play a more active role.

A father’s involvement in the period immediately after childbirth is particularly important due to the stresses of adjusting to new caregiving responsibilities and arrangements. New fathers and mothers often have their in-laws over or a confinement lady to help them out with the baby.

The presence of other caregivers in the house may be inconvenient at times when a mother wants some privacy. Also, some more traditional mother-in-laws may insist on confinement practices that your wife may not be comfortable with. This puts her in a difficult position; when this occurs, it is a dad’s role to intervene on her behalf.

“Mumnesia” –Dads Remember to Help!

“Mumnesia” or loss of memory can also occur on the arrival of a baby.  New mothers sometimes experience small lapses of memory such as misplacing items or struggling to remember names. This is due to the combination of factors such as fatigue, hormonal changes and an added focus on the baby.

A new mother’s oestrogen levels are significantly lowered after giving birth and as oestrogen acts as a neurotransmitter, sending signals in the brain, her memory is affected.

“New mothers are dedicated to serving their little baby and are determined to keep him alive no matter what,” says neuropsychiatrist Dr Louann Brizendine. “That’s each mum’s number one priority. Consequently, less important matters get forgotten, or at least put into a less active area of the brain.

When this happens, dads can help out by taking their turn to look after the baby. This will give mothers the assurance that the baby is in good hands and they will in turn, feel less worried and will be able to get more rest.

Dads, a Source of Support

New mothers undergo many changes and the duty of taking care of the baby may get taxing and too overwhelming at times. By being there for your wife, you not only function as a source of strength and support for her, but are also able to share in the joys of parenthood.


1. Beating the Baby Blues: emotional changes after childbirth can overwhelm even the best new mom. Here’s how to help yourself and your family. 
3. Fighting Postpartum Blues ; Meet Dr. Bartell
4. Memory Loss In New Mums Is In Fact A Medical Condition
5. Are You Suffering From Mumnesia?

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 29-04-2011.

Categories: 2 Dads of Newborns and Toddlers, Ages and Stages

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