"Dad's can't get postnatal depression" - The words that many struggling new fathers hear.
In the weeks after the birth of my child, I had three midwives asking me about my mental health. They were concerned about me, as 10-15% of new mothers can develop depression. Yet, what the midwives did not do, is ask how my child's father was coping. The well-being of fathers seems to be brushed aside. Let's be honest, how many of us are actually aware fathers can experience paternal postnatal depression, let alone the know the warning signs? Personally, I was unaware it even existed up until recently.
Paternal postnatal depression (new dad depression), is fairly common, possibly as common as post natal depression in women. New dads tend to feel the effects 3 to 6 months after the baby is born. There are a number of factors which could lead to new dad depression. These may include: an increase in pressure, financial worries, changes in everyday life, lack of sleep, increased workload at home and concern for the other parent and child.
A few factors which could impact a father's mental well-being includes:
- An unhealthy relationship with their partner
- The age of the new father; younger fathers are more prone to depression
- Income; those with lower income are more prone to depression
- Past mental health history
- Social and family life
- Being the father of twins or more than one child
- Having a child who has sleeping problems
The symptoms for new dad depression are the same as symptoms of postnatal depression in new mothers. If you are going through any of the symptoms following the birth of a new child, we encourage you see your GP. If this is not possible and you or others are very worried you can also go to Accident and Emergency. Symptoms include:
- Feeling extremely low and hopeless
- A loss of interest in things which were once enjoyable
- Finding it hard to bond with your new child, to the point that it is troubling you
- Feeling guilty due to the lack of bond with your baby
- Feeling unable to cope, failing to see the point in anything
- Intrusive distressing thoughts about your abilities as a father, your relationship with the mother or your relationship with your new child
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Increased irritability, agitation or aggression
- Risk-taking behaviour
- Drinking heavily or using drugs to cope
- Feeling very anxious with our without panic attacks
- Feeling unable to be warm to your child or partner to the point that it is troubling you or others
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical symptoms such as headaches and other aches or pains
- Constant fears over the baby's well-being
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your family
If you are going through any of these symptoms do not wait to see if these feelings will go away. Some amount of worry is normal, but it is always best to be on the safe side. You will have a better chance to look after your partner and your new child if you look after yourself first.
Remember, it is not your fault. You should not blame yourself for feeling the way you do, just as you would not blame your partner for their mental health.
Struggling with mental health, doesn't make you a bad father.
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