While we know that about 16% of pregnant and postnatal women experience depression, most are unaware that fathers can experience postnatal depression.
PND for fathers is not as common as in women, and therefore there is far less research into what men experience. From my experience as a psychologist working in the area of women’s mental health and pregnancy and birth, I have also seen men for stress, anxiety and depression.
Postnatal Depression in Men
I find that for women the onset of anxiety or depression occurs often during pregnancy, as the physical changes can have a huge impact on the mum-to-be.
Dads also experience their partner’s changes, but in a different way. The stress of being unable to understand the changes, fear of being unable to provide for the growing family, fear of not understanding the medical interventions that may happen during the birth may all contribute to a man succumbing to postnatal depression.
After the baby is born, women tend to find support more easily than men, and learn parenting strategies from other women. It can be more difficult for men to find a playgroup, or others to share their parenting experience.
Factors that are likely to impact fathers include:
- Supporting a partner who is very ill during the pregnancy;
- Financial stress of losing an income and increased costs for the growing family (ie needing a bigger home, more security, cost of childcare, private schooling, etc);
- The health of baby, especially when it is unpredictable;
- The loss of intimacy when the new mum is focusing on her newborn and less on the couple’s relationship;
- Fatigue caused by the extra work, stress and care required by a newborn;
- Stay-at-home dads that have to support mum at work. These days there are increasing numbers of fathers who attend counselling who are primary carers at home;
- Loss of friendships with single mates who might like to go out. With the demands of being a new parent, both parents lose friendships and time with others;
- Those who have had prior depression or self-esteem challenges in the past;
- Loss of sporting activities and exercise, in exchange for household activities that are inside.
If you are worried that you have postnatal depression or your partner has PND, please consider visiting me for a session to discuss the possibility. If you are just having a bad week then it is better to know how to define normal stress. If you are experiencing depression then we will formulate a plan for you to recover. I might advise you to gain a mental health plan if that will make things more affordable.
Counselling for postnatal depression may not be a long commitment. If we can figure out what changed, and what is needed in the first session or two, then positive effects can be felt after 1-4 sessions. If you have a family history of lifelong depression then I’m happy to see you and recommend one of my colleagues in psychiatry or your GP who will provide appropriate and safe options. It is an option for you to attend with your partner and learn more about supporting each other through the challenges of early parenting.
It is important to know that help is available!
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (hons), MAPS, MAICD.
Vivian Jarrett is the Clinic Director at Vision Psychology; she is passionate about providing high quality psychology services to Australians from all walks of life.
She has worked extensively with couples during pregnancy and the postnatal period.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.