Postpartum Depression’s Impact On Marriages & Divorce

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post partum depression

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Did you know that the first year postpartum has the highest divorce rate than any other time during a marriage? I imagine this must be due to the enormous stress and major role transitioning that occurs when a couple has a new baby. For those of us with postpartum depression, the stresses on a marriage grow even larger.

I recall that my own husband was very confused by my illness. He didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I was no longer behaving like the person he married, and I’m sure he worried whether I’d ever go back to that person. I’m grateful we made it through that horrible time.

I heard from a reader and recent postpartum depression survivor whose husband has just asked for a separation. She’d like to hear from you.

“Although he hasn’t directly said it I feel like the postpartum depression played a major role in creating distance between us. Most of the stories I read are about wonderfully supportive husbands and I wonder if other women have been or are in similar situations and maybe have advice?”

Have any of you been here? Can you share constructive thoughts about what you went through, whether it worked out in the end or it didn’t?

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. MamaRobinJ says:

    I've been there. By the time my son was 18 months things were so bad my husband and I came very close to splitting up. I know now that it was because my main issue was anger, and I was taking it out on him. I don't even really remember this, but I can see how of course it would have been hard to live with me.
    What helped me:
    – Getting help, finally. Medication took the edge off and things got better.
    – I learned a lot about PPD and shared information with him so that he understood more what it was about and that it wasn't personal.
    – Asking for help. There were some things that were just too hard and they made me snap. If I asked him for help, it made for a much less tense situation.
    Without knowing more about your particular experience with PPD it's hard to say more, but just know that we went from a really rocky time to a great place where he's my biggest supporter and totally understands (as much as he can when it's not him experiencing it).
    Happy to talk more if it would help. If you don't want to post here but want to share a bit more with Katherine, I can probably offer more specifics about my experience that might help.

    • I’m going through something similar with my ex. She was diagnosed after baby. My son is now 18 months. She blames me for everything. She brings up past issues. She doesn’t see what I try doing for her and nothing she says to hurt me ever matters. But when I reach a limit of I can’t keep being a doormat and snap then she holds it against me. She’s convinced it’s me and what’s worse is the ppl in her life also says it’s me. I just don’t understand it bc I’ve wanted nothing but a family and seeker help from ppl online and friends. She tells me she doesn’t want to be with me and she no longer loves me. She’s 23 and I’m 29. She uses my family against me and what’s worse is she uses my son against me. She try’s to keep him from me them tells ppl that I’m ok with not seeing him. She deliberately try’s to go out of her way to hurt me. I really tried everything I could to be with her. The only other thing is to not talk to her and give her space and pray that works.

  2. MaineMomma says:

    Something I frequently tell friends of mine is that "if we didn't kill each other during that first year, I don't think we ever will!" Things were horrible for my husband and me after my daughter was born. I "spoiled" him right up until I gave birth. I did all the cooking, cleaning, etc. and honestly didn't mind. He was free to have a social life with his friends and in fact, I encouraged it. Then I gave birth, had a brief 3-month maternity leave, returned to work, was laid off right away, and returned home to spend more time with my colicky baby. People considered it a blessing, but I felt overwhelming anxiety and worthlessness. I felt like I contributed nothing to my family if I was unable to work. I also knew I was simply not cut out to be a stay-at-home-mom. We struggled with money, colic, and all the normal adjustments that first time parents go through.
    I expected him to step up his game and help out with the cooking and cleaning, but I never asked for it until I was having yet another lengthy discussion with him (in tears) about all the things I wish he would have done but didn't. I had all this anger toward him, but I never voiced it until it was so bottled up that it just exploded out of me and my poor husband was left staring at me like he was in the Twilight Zone because he was so confused about what was going on and why I hadn't spoken up about it sooner. He told me every time that if I would just ask, he would do whatever he could to help. I also resented everything other than his job, which was providing our only source of income. He was also in school full time, pursuing a side business (to make up for my lack of salary) and still trying to have a bit of a social life. I resented each of those things, even though they were perfectly healthy things for him to want to pursue. This resentment brewed, festered and grew until I honestly thought we would not make it as a family. But one day I decided to stop blaming and resenting him for everything and to change my own behavior.
    I began to see a therapist and he helped me really look within myself and start to address not only my postpartum depression, but also my obsessive-compulsive disorder and extreme perfectionism. He helped me strive for "good enough" instead of perfection. But most of all, my therapist held up a giant mirror so that I could see my own flaws and focus on fixing them rather than wasting my time trying to fix my husband. The biggest revelation I had was that I resented my husband for not noticing that I had severe postpartum depression, but I was going out of my way to hide it from him so he wouldn't consider me weak.
    The day I spoke up and owned my issues is the day is started getting better. In life, we can inspire and affect other people, but we cannot change them. Change must come from within. Shifting my focus allowed me to stop blaming him for everything and to work on falling in love with him all over again. We are not 100% back to "the good old days" yet, but we're moving in the right direction.

  3. My son is 30 months today. I spent the first 15 months (or more) of his life so wrapped up in PPD that I couldn't see straight. My partner has never been the kind of person who could deal with my emotional side and the PPD only made this relationship dynamic more difficult. We're still together, but we didn't get that survival bond that you read about (i.e., we made it through this so we can make it through anything), in fact even as I've come out of the PPD we've become further apart than ever. I think there are many factors to this but some are: the fact that the "me" post-PPD is not the same me as before (or maybe moreso her perception of me is not the same); the ongoing stigma of the PPD; the relationships around us that were ruined because of the PPD; body issues (related to breastfeeding, the c-section, and just general post-baby body changes). And these issues are compounded by other life stressors like financial problems. She says I need to see a therapist to deal with *my* issues (something we can't afford), and I think we would benefit from seeing someone together for *our* issues (also unaffordable).
    I don't have any answers for you, but I can certainly commiserate.

  4. Heather says:

    I have been there too. My depression started during my first pregnancy so I was a mess before she was even born and of course it just got worse. My husband was so used to me being the calm, collected and together one that he completely didn't know what to do. One of our biggest issues was breast feeding; my daughter had a very hard time latching on and absolutely no patience so she would scream non stop while I would be trying to feed her. With my depression this made everything so much worse. My daughter and I pretty much just cried together all day long. The pediatrician finally said 'just give her formula, this is not good for anyone!' so I decided to stop the breast feeding. This really angered my husband. He couldn't believe I wouldn't do what was best for our daughter. He wouldn't hear from anyone (my mother, the pediatrician, his mother, etc) that it was way more important for me and my daughter to like each other! Through all of this my depression just got worse and worse, I stopped going to work, I was sleeping all day, I wasn't doing housework, etc. Of course, he was then worried I would lose my job and his anxiety went through the roof. He was really at the end of his rope and didn't know what to do. He finally with the help of my mom called my OB and got me in with a psychiatrist and therapist.
    Once I started medication that helped tremendously. Things got better over time. I do wonder if he hadn't been so scarred from his parents divorce and determined to not put his children through that, if we might have separated. We also did a lot of couples therapy which helped him understand what I was going through. It also helped me understand why he was having so much trouble with my depression.
    When we had our second child we made a lot of decisions before hand (like not breastfeeding so I could stay on my meds, me going to half time at work after maternity leave for 6 months so I had some time to myself, etc.) The postpartum depression was not as bad as the first time but it was still there. We also continued our couples therapy during this time which helped A LOT.
    Things are much better now that our kids are 2 and 4, they are a little more independent and sleep through the night. We also did a lot of work in couples therapy which has really paid off. I think we are on the right track but it is getting much better.
    One thing I did learn through this whole experience was that you have to put getting through the PPD first before anyone else's feelings. I had to finally tell my husband that 'I can't worry about you right now, I have to deal with myself.' You have to forgive yourself for the PPD and mourn for what you've lost. For myself, I had to let go of the guilt about not liking my daughter for the first few months of her life. I also had to mourn for the loss of the 'perfect' new mom experience that I thought I was supposed to have.
    I'm sending lots of hugs and support your way.

  5. We did not make it. In hindsight, I doubt we would have anyway. 6 years in and 1 child later, I/we tried for as long as possible.
    My postpartum experience profoundly changed me and what I was willing to tolerate for both myself and my son. He never understood my ppd, nor tried to educate himself. He shut down when he couldn't 'fix' the problem instantly. I was left feeling like he would not stand by me through the worst & he used it against me. Refused help, therapy& resources until it was so far gone that it wasn't fixable.
    We are now gearing up for a custody battle in which he will use my illness against me. I am proud of the fact that I sought help in the form of a great psychiatrist and therapist. It is my hope that some day he will recognize that too. Perhaps not, but I can't change the fact that I became ill. All I have control of is insuring that I am the most healthy for my son and continue to be.
    I wish I could say that he was my rock& we weathered the storm, but that is not reality. Congrats to those who do. Yet, if you don't, you will be ok. That I can promise.

    • Thank you for the reassurance. My husband has been a complete and total jerk. He is not understanding at all. My pregnancy was so difficult and my son is now 13 months old. My life with him right now feels like pure hell. Sometimes I I think he wants to push me over the edge too not be bothered with me. Thankfully I have family and friends who have dealt with mental illness and understand. Hopefully within the next few months I can be rid of this dead weight.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow – thanks for the large variety of comments.
    @MamaJ you asked for more specifics – here they are…
    My daughter is about to turn 2 and I've had PPD since she was around 5months. I'm medicated & have a great psychiatrist and therapist, (we've also attended couples counselling in the last year). I've been properly treated for about 9-10 months now (under treated by GP originally).
    We've been together for 8 years and married for 5.
    I think its interesting that several of the women think that the difficulties are solely caused by them or their PPD. I'm not judging – just not necessarily what I expected.
    @Dana – PPD has changed me dramatically too. I'm still in the stages of trying to figure out what I do and don't like about the new me and how to get back the parts I miss. You also mentioned body issues which are HUGE (excuse the pun) with me too. I gained more wait from my meds than I did from the pregnancy which I find incredibly depressing & unfair.
    @Heather – Your last paragraph is incredibly wise and SO true. I wish I had read it months ago!
    @Joan – I've been worried about the PPD being used against me in custody battles but so far he hasn't even mentioned going there (probably because I don't think full time custody fits into the life he imagines for himself). Thanks for the reassurance!
    xoxo

  7. My husband and I had the worst year of our 17 yr marriage when I had my daughter and had severe PPD. Mostly it was the stress of me being so mad and irritated about the PPD and also my husband had to get up with our daughter for 2 yrs because I was so zonked out on meds. We went to a counselor a few times and it helped some. Mostly time and patience mended things. He was willing to stick things out no matter what. I just wanted to run away from it all. But in the end, it's made us stronger. Just know that things one day will be better so hand in there.

  8. Survivor says:

    I would try to visualize the separation as a step to healing the marriage. You aren't divorced yet. Perhaps he would be open to attending a support group for family members coping with mental illness.

  9. My wife is going through postpartum and has become very hard for me to communicate to her. I feel that she doesnt trust me and I am the worst possible person in the planet. At this point, she doesn't want to work things out and wants a divorce. We've been seperated for about 2 weeks now. I try to stay involved and help her as much I can, but she litterally wants me out of her life.

    I went one week with out calling her or telling her where I was at and her jelousy kicked it in and just wanted to keep in contact with me by constantly calling me or text messaging. I know my wife loves me or the way she puts it, " I love you, I am just not in love with you." There other signs that I get from my wife that encourage me to continue with her but, she continues bringing up divorce.

    I dont know what to do. I sometimes feel that its me and cant accept a divorce or she is really that sick that she doesn't realize what she is doing. I am really lost in this whole situation

    • I’m in the exact same scenario. Just not separated as of yet. We have a 7 month old baby. My heart is torn by the thought of divorce. I try to be a good listener, I don’t think it’s enough when she doesn’t admit her ppd. Good luck Carlos.

    • I to am in the same situation but we are still together, just. We’re not married but have been together for 10 years and have 2 girls aged 3 and 20 months. We’ve been having problems for about 2 months but she has said she has been feeling this way for longer but she hasn’t said anything. The girls and her are my life and I’m staying put to make sure we give it all before giving up. Every time I mention ppd and us going to see a doctor together she gets angry with me and says that she hasn’t got it now but may of had it just after the birth. I’m not the only one who thinks this may be what’s wrong it’s also her family but she refuses to talk about it. I don’t want to lose her but I don’t know what to do.

  10. After struggling for 13 months and 5 dif kinds of med’s my wife took the kids and left. She had it milder with our first child. But nothing like the 2nd. She closed up and wouldn’t talk or let me try and help. All I do know is pray that maybe the next med’s will work better or it slowly goes away and she comes home or is open to slowly trying again. Maybe talking to someone together. Does anybody know if old feeling cone back at all ?

    • Jay… My son is now 3yrs old and for the first 2yrs of his life I suffered from PPD and during pregnancy I suffered with depression and I still struggle with it today due to Graves Diesease (thyroid diesease) and unbalanced thyroid levels. I too pushed my fiance away and didnt want any help from him or anybody else. I was a very angry person. I had a 13yr old and 42yrs old when i found out i was pregnant and had a hard time adjusting to a new life and felt my old life was over. I had no feelings for anyone..anything..except my daughter but especially my fiance. My feelings did return as strong as they were before and it happened out of the blue. My fiance however is very hurt and angry from being pushed away for so long. Hes now not sure of his feelings. Its very scary and sad to think i could lose him. It didnt feel like ”ME”doing it. He sleeps on the couch and refuses to come to bed. So for me…i got my feelings back and im hoping he does too. Sad that out of creating something so wonderful and amazing so many struggles..battles and loses have to happen. Shouldnt be this way.
      Good luck to you!
      Kimberly

  11. keiran crawford says:

    My partner is currently suffering from pnd and has taken steps into beating the illness. Just want to tell the men to just support there women, if your feeling pushed away you have to remember its not her fault and on the contrary to how you maybe feeling all she wants and needs is your love and support and just to be by her side. The worst thing you can do is to blame or abandon her!! It is the worst thing for a new family to go through but if you get through it just proves yor relationship is unbreakable and theres nothing you cant get through together. Please just remember why you chose her to be the mother of your children, support her and be there and things will get better.

    • How do have her seek help if she denies there is a problem??

      • Same question, how do you get her the help if she is in constant denial. For her to seek help is some kind of “battle lost”. I know in my case, my wife will never seek help, she’s in this cloud of hatred, denial, distrust and mostly so disconnected from the reality or the facts that it almost seems like she’s been living with someone else not me!…Just a very very distorted view of the real events. She has filed for divorce and there is nothing I can do. All out friends, coworkers, doctor, everyone is shocked…still can;t do anything until she realizes…

        I’ve tried counselling (for myself) and to understand it better, talked to professionals around the globe on what to do, how to communicate, but nothing works…she’s made up her mind to end it all…and she can;t come up with a single reason.

  12. I do not think I suffer ppd however I feel I would like to have your advise. The time before, during and after pregnancy has been a little difficult. My mom was diagnosed with cancer before I got pregnant and she died when I was about 3 months pregnant. She was very excited about becoming a grandmother (she never knew i would be having a girl which makes me really sad). I was very closed to my mom and I miss her every second of my life. After having my baby girl I was of course tired and irritable. My husband helped me very much at the beginning, but now he has relaxed a lot. My little girl is now 6 months and she is the light of my life. She sleeps all night and she is very good girl. I have a nnay that helps me twice a week plus nursery (starting next week). I feel I am very fortunate, however lately I feel I cant stand my husband. Pretty much every comment he makes annoys me. He makes loud noises that sometimes scare my baby (he talks loud on the phone,sneezes very loud,etc). I have tried to ask him very politely not to be too loud but he is not willing to change. It irritates me that he not know how to calm my baby when crying, or that when she cries he takes his time before aiding her. I feel that everything that he does is wrong. He forgets to add vitamins to my baby bottle. He keep asking me stuff that is very basic (example: the baby’s clothes are all wet and he asks whether he should change it or not). All this small things he does or does not irritates me very much). Any advice.?

  13. My Brothers wife just had their first baby. Their marriage has plummeted downwards steadily for the 5 months since their child was born.
    Recently things have turned nasty. She wants a divorce immediately. Yesterday he was served notice from her lawyer that she would like full custody of their son.
    My Brother is very unsure of what he should do. They were very happily married until the child was born. He doesn’t want a divorce however His wife refuses to see a doctor or therapist.
    He has offered many times to go to counselling. He has reached out to her family and friends however that is a narrow group.

    How does he convince her that there is something bigger here? how can he get her to a therapist?
    Help!

  14. Jennifer Lacey says:

    My daughter was in complete denial of her psychosis. This led to her husband getting temporary custody and then full custody and a divorce. After months and months, she finally got the help she needed and is more than wonderful now.
    Now what? She is living in another state (with us) and is trying to get shared custody. What a dilemma.
    Any advice?

    • Kelly. The best thing Ur brother can do is make sure he’s there for the child and forget about her. There will be nothing he can do there. She will have to realize it herself. I’m in the same boat and my ex. She’s said and done so many things. Blames me for all of it. What made it worse was I fed into it. I should of just cut it off. Only time and her not being with him will make her realize what she can have. That’s the only way ppl miss someone. Not when they are chasing after

  15. I developed postpartum depression during my last trimester with my first baby. My now husband was away for the entire last trimester at the other side of the country. Then when baby was born we moved to the country to a house we couldn’t afford and he left again. Between him being gone and being home working a terrible job for no money… ny depression got worse. I was all alone with no friends or family. I was so angry all the time and took it out on him. Then I got pregnant again very unplanned. We took steps to better our situation. We moved back near town to an affordable house. But now we are separated. Still living together because he won’t leave…but he has told me he has fallen out of love with me. He says we are a bad match and my anger is too out of control. I am through the depression now but if I show the slightest anger or hurt towards him for any reason he can’t handle it. My depression ruined our marriage as far as I see it. I have looked for free counselling feom our local community counselling service but the wait list is like..six months. I recognize that he is now suffering depression and I basically ruined him…and he wants to be friends and have me never again feel angerbor any negative emotion….which seems redicukous to me. So…now I dont know. I am so lost and confused. I cant move om because we still live together…and I can’t move forward because I am stuck in this limbo of walk I on eggshells…not knowing how to communicate and having to wonder if I should hold on or move on and how to do either.

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