We hear all the time about how new mothers can suffer from postnatal depression (PND), but it is often not talked about how PND can affect new dads too. Having a baby is one of life’s best gifts, but this change in life can also change the way you feel. Studies indicated that 1 in 10 dads will suffer from PND after the birth of their baby. There is no single answer as to why some new dads are affected by depression. Generally speaking, having a baby can be a challenging experience. The increased pressures that come along with fatherhood, like more financial responsibility, the changes in your relationships and worrying about your partner, not to mention the changes in your lifestyle may all contribute to a new dad’s mental well-being. Some common feelings you may notice are:
- Fears of Fatherhood
- Being worried about your new responsibilities now that you have a family
- Adjusting to the loss of freedom that occurs when you have a baby
- Money Worries
- Feeling stressed about financially being able to providing for your family
- Feeling stressed about managing expenses on a single income
- If your childhood was unhappy, the arrival of your baby can trigger memories
- Wanting to be a different type of parent from your father
- Worrying about whether you’ll be a good dad.
PND usually occurs within a 3 to 6 month period after the baby’s arrival, however it can start earlier or later than this. There are many symptoms of PND and can be similar to those found amongst new mums that are experiencing PND. Symptoms include:
- Feeling exhausted and anxious
- Being consumed with finances
- Begin to withdraw from your family
- Being irritable intolerant or angry
- Sleeping poorly or oversleeping
- Feeling like you can’t cope.
- Feeling guilty about not loving your baby enough.
- Crying a lot
- Loss of appetite
- Comfort eating.
- Having obsessive fears about baby’s health or wellbeing, or about themselves and other members of the family.
- Having disturbing thoughts about harming themselves or their baby.
- Having thoughts about death.
Every dad has different symptoms and some of them may not be listed above. But if you don’t feel quite right and you know that something’s wrong, try talking to someone about how you’re feeling. Share your feelings with people you trust. It may be hard at first, but speaking with your partner is a good starting point and you’d be surprised how many concerns you commonly share. One of the key benefits of speaking to your partner about these feelings is that it also allows you both to formulate a plan on how you can support each other on your new parenthood journey. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with your partner, try speaking with a family member or friend (one that has kids and can relate might be more suitable).
PND recovery is gradual and will get better with the right help. If you’ve had any of these feelings and they don’t seem to be getting better after a couple of weeks, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP to seek help or be given a referral. Clinical depression is serious and it’s very treatable. Recognising that you may have PND and require the help of a professional is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Getting help from a therapist or psychiatrist for depression of any type is vital in tackling the problem and getting your health back on track.
Just like new mums, new dads need a network of supportive family, friends and or professionals to talk to in a safe environment about concerns and how you’re feeling. Remember that you too will need some extra TLC and attention during this transition – don’t be afraid to ask for it!