A whopping 92 per cent of couples experience an increase in conflict in their relationship following the birth of their baby. Sleep deprivation, steep learning curves and role/responsibility changes within the family often resulting in more arguments than before baby arrived.
Enter Partners to Parents, a new, evidence-based website designed to help couples navigate the transition to parenthood - and protect their mental health throughout the process.
Developed by a team of researchers and psychologists at the Australian Catholic University, the site provides practical tips for new parents and parents-to-be, to help increase partner support and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Why the focus on partner support? Previous research has consistently identified that parents being supportive of one another is a key protective factor against mood problems during pregnancy and following childbirth.
After examining more than 100 studies in the area, Pam Pilkington, psychologist and founder of Partners to Parents, says, "We found that parents who feel that their relationship with their partner is characterised by a sense of belonging, affection, and commitment are less likely to be depressed or anxious."
She added that receiving emotional support (such as when someone says things that make you feel accepted and understood) and practical support (helping with cooking, cleaning, and caring for the baby) from your partner also reduces the risk of perinatal depression.
"Preventing perinatal depression and anxiety has so many fantastic flow-on effects, as it enhances the parent's capacity to parent warmly, be involved, and bond with their infant," says Pilkington.
Pilkington also highlighted that the site is father inclusive and same-sex inclusive, something she's particularly proud of.
Partners to Parents covers issues including how to stay connected to one another, how to work as a team, the importance of self-care, and what to do if you feel your partner is struggling.
In addition, there's information around sex and intimacy or "adjusting your sex-pectations" during pregnancy and post birth.
The key message is that having a strong and healthy relationship benefits the whole family.
"I remember seeing a seminar by a relationships counsellor, and he was explaining how there is a study that found that the physical wounds of people in love healed faster than people who were not in love," says Pilkington. "I just thought that was so amazing, and it has stayed with me. Never underestimate the power of love!"
Visit Partners to Parents to learn more.