Are you concerned that you or someone you love is a father with postnatal depression?
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.
Some of the signs of postnatal depression in men can include increased alcohol consumption, spending more time alone than normal, appearing down and disengaged, and bursts of temper that seem out of character when minor things happen.
When do women experience the greater risk to depression? 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. Dad’s 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 happen during the birth. After baby is born, women tend to find support more easily than men to 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 cause fathers to be at risk of depression include:
- Supporting a partner or baby who is very ill during the pregnancy
- Financial stress of losing an income and increased costs for the growing family. (i.e. 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 caring for a new born.
- 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.
- Fear of the birth experience if it was a difficult or complicated birth.
- 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, 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 that comes from parenting. If you are experiencing depression then we will formulate a plan for you to recover. I might advise 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 frequently positive effects can be felt after 1-4 sessions. If you have family history of lifelong depression then we can discuss whether medication is something to discuss with your GP. It is an option for your 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 MAPS, MAICD, B Psych (hon), GCert (ResCom)
***Finalist Telstra Business Women’s Awards Qld – Entrepreneur
Vivian Jarrett is a psychologist, passionate about providing high quality psychology services to Australians from all walks of life.
She has worked extensively with women, especially during pregnancy and the ante-natal period.