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Postnatal depression in dads: Noticing the signs and reaching out for help

Postnatal depression in dads: Noticing the signs and reaching out for help

As a dad, it can be tough to identify postnatal depression. But once you know the signs, it's important to reach out for help. This article provides information on how to do just that.

Depression is a mental health condition that typically comes with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and tiredness. It can range from mild to severe. Many people experience depression at some point in their lives, and it can impact them in many different ways. 

However, statistics show that 75% of all suicides are male. Some men find it difficult to express their emotions to their friends and family and seek help, which often means that their depression worsens over time.  

This may be because some men believe depression is a sign of weakness, causing them to hide or downplay their feelings. It’s important for any man in this situation to know that depression is a treatable condition and that there’s no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional. 

How can postnatal depression affect dads?

We tend to concentrate on mothers during the postpartum period, but fathers also need support. For all parents-to-be, pregnancy and early parenting are significant and life-changing experiences. These events can trigger intense and unexpected feelings that cause fathers to become depressed during pregnancy or after birth. Therefore, it’s important that we take the risk of paternal depression seriously. 

What is postpartum depression? 

Postpartum depression is a type of depression that many parents experience following the birth of their newborn. As many fathers in the last 10 years have struggled with their mental health throughout the early stages of parenthood. 

It’s likely that if one partner is experiencing symptoms of depression, the other will as well. However, the needs of new fathers aren’t largely understood. Given the widespread belief that postpartum depression is caused by hormonal changes a mother experiences after giving birth, depression in fathers often goes undiagnosed. 

Can you develop postpartum depression before your baby is born?

However, new fathers might also experience depression and anxiety during the perinatal period for many of the same reasons as new mothers. Becoming a parent can be unsettling. For example, having a baby means taking on extra responsibility and financial pressure. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed as a new father trying to balance your workload, support your partner, and maintain good relationships. 

Likewise, if you’ve been struggling to conceive for a while, the guilt of feeling depressed may make you feel worse about the change in your routine and lifestyle. These mental health problems can also begin during the antenatal period. 

Regardless of how things were before having a baby, becoming a parent can strain your relationship with your partner. This can make coping with the everyday challenges of becoming a parent more difficult. 

What are the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression in fathers?

It takes time to adjust to a new baby. It’s natural for your mood to fluctuate during this time. However, if you suspect you might be experiencing mental health problems, you should seek help as soon as possible. If you dismiss your feelings, your symptoms could worsen and negatively affect your baby and your family. 

Signs and symptoms of postnatal depression may include: 

  • Feeling sad and hopeless
  • Constant exhaustion or numbness
  • Not wanting to do anything
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Feeling guilty for not being happy or for not coping
  • Worrying that you don’t love your baby enough
  • Being easily irritated
  • Crying or wanting to cry more than usual
  • Not wanting to eat or being unable to eat
  • Binge eating
  • Finding it difficult to sleep
  • Lack of interest in your partner and/or baby
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Having worrying thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
  • Thinking about death

You may only feel a couple of these symptoms, or you may feel most of them. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to tick all of the boxes for depression to reach out for help. Everybody’s journey is different, and if you’re struggling, you’re allowed to ask for support.

What support is out there for dads?

There are many different ways to get access to support services for your mental health. 

If you’re having problems with your mental health, you can talk to your doctor or seek counselling or psychological help at any time. You can talk to someone throughout your partner’s pregnancy; postnatal depression doesn’t always start after birth.

Your doctor may be able to refer you to some local support groups or suggest talking therapies. There are also plenty of mental health charities that offer their services to new parents. 

Some organisations that specialise in helping and supporting partners during this time include:  

Final thoughts from Kinhub

Although many postnatal depression resources focus only on mothers, it’s important for dads to look after their mental health too. If you or a loved one is struggling with postnatal depression, reach out to someone and get the support you need. Anybody can suffer from postnatal depression, and it’s certainly not a mother-only illness. Talking through your feelings, leaning on the people around you, and understanding that this will pass can help.