Yes. Dads do experience postnatal depression. In fact, dads also experience prenatal anxiety and/or depression (anxiety and depression during the period of pregnancy), and postnatal anxiety (after the birth of baby). Most of us know that depression and anxiety can affect women during pregnancy and parenthood, but the experiences of men during this time of their lives isn’t often spoken about…
It’s time to shed some light on anxiety and depression in dads so that they can get the support they need to be happy and fulfilled as fathers, as partners, and as human beings.
Anxiety and depression can look differently for each expecting and new dad, though some of the more commonly noted symptoms can include physical signs, changes in emotions and mood, changes in thinking and behavioural changes:
Changes in emotions and mood:
Changes in thinking:
Changes in behaviour:
As with any anxiety and depression, there’s a range of physical, social and emotional factors that can contribute to this experience for dads:
We know that the experience of pregnancy and the birth of a baby is a transformative, powerful time in any parent’s life, and it is utterly life-changing. It can be expected that new dads have emotions stirred within them, particularly in the face of sleepless nights and the deep need to protect their new family unit. But it’s when these emotional changes last longer than two weeks and begin to impede on daily life that we need to take active steps in getting support. Ignoring what is happening inside, or struggling against the emotions you feel, won’t make them stop and go away. Without support these feelings can deepen and manifest themselves into actions and behaviours that aren’t helpful. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and you don’t have to continue feeling the way you do.
Dads don’t seem to access the sort of services that new mothers do. They don’t tend to see their doctor, midwife, or child health nurse, which is where the signs of anxiety and depression are often picked up in mothers. It is often a man’s friends who are the first to notice symptoms of depression (particularly through noticing social withdrawal), or the man’s partner who may notice changes in mood or behaviour. It’s important that symptoms are recognised and acknowledged so that steps to feeling well again can be taken. If you notice these symptoms in your partner, open a dialogue and listen, acknowledge and validate. Let him know you’re there for him and that you’ll support him in getting help to sort through how he’s feeling.
There are so many options out there for dads to work through what’s happening for them if they are experiencing some of the signs of anxiety or depression. It doesn’t always have to involve the medical model of care, particularly if help is sought early.
If you’re an expecting or new dad and you can recognise in yourself some of the signs or symptoms listed above, please know that you don’t have to continue feeling the way you do. Reach out and speak to someone about what’s going on for you… your partner or a friend is a great start. If you recognise these signs in your own partner speak to them about what you see. Consider sending them this blog post. Open up a conversation about their wellbeing. The journey ahead may be a little bumpy but it’s worth it.
My name is Fiona Rogerson and I am an ACA accredited perinatal Perth counsellor and Hypnobirthing (Mongan Method) Practitioner. I work with women and men to overcome emotional and psychological hurdles surrounding conception, pregnancy, postpartum, parenting and identity. I am also available to provide professional development training and workshops to various organisations. I am based south of the river in Perth and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0402 017 425 or via my contact page.