Postnatal depression: what new dads need to know and how to get help

Many people think of postnatal depression as a condition that affects only women. But in reality, postnatal depression affects nearly as many men as women with some research estimating it occurs in up to 10 percent of fathers.

Yet despite how common postnatal depression may be in men, there’s still not a lot of information about it. This can make it difficult to know if you may have postnatal depression and how to get help if you do.

Here’s what you need to know.

Quarter life, a series of The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about the issues that affect those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of starting a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet, or just making friends as adults. Articles in this series explore questions and provide answers as we navigate this turbulent time in life.

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Because it happens

There are many reasons why postnatal depression occurs. And, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just due to hormones. Even in women, hormones play only a small role in postnatal depression.

Instead, postnatal depression is typically due to a combination of risk factors such as a previous history of depression, sleep problems after the baby is born, lack of social support, or financial hardship. Postnatal depression can also occur at any age.

Postnatal depression symptoms are quite similar to depression symptoms. Thus, symptoms of postnatal depression can include depressed mood, lack of motivation, poor sleep, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, poor concentration, changes in appetite or weight, fatigue, and thoughts of death or suicide.

The main difference between depression and postnatal depression is that these feelings tend to occur in the postnatal period (usually the first year or so after the baby is born).

It can be normal to struggle with your mental health a little after your baby is born. After all, it can be an overwhelming and exciting time, with nearly every aspect of your life changing from your daily routine, your relationship with your partner, to the amount of sleep you get each night.

The female doctor talks to the male patient.
Consider talking to your GP if your symptoms have lasted more than a few weeks.

But if you’ve been suffering from low mood and lack of motivation for more than a few weeks and are finding that these feelings are making it difficult to interact with your child, you may want to consider talking to your GP or mental health professional. . It’s also worth noting that postnatal depression can occur anytime in the first year or two after your baby is born, not just the first few months.

Get help

Postnatal depression is unlikely to go away on its own. If you suspect you may be struggling with postnatal depression, it’s important to seek support not only for your well-being, but because postnatal depression can also affect your bond with your baby.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with needing help, and seeking support from loved ones, friends, or a doctor is nothing to be embarrassed about. It doesn’t make you weak, nor does experiencing postnatal depression make you a failure.

While it can be difficult to know how to take the first step in getting support, a good place to start is to simply recognize that this is a difficult thing to talk about. As simple as that sounds, it might help you feel less self-conscious about sharing your experiences when talking to someone. It’s also worth remembering that when talking to someone, it’s important to say how you really feel, not what you feel you should say.

It’s also normal if you feel angry because you feel the way you feel. Many young men who struggle with their mental health become angry that they feel this way, or fear that they have let their loved ones down or that the system won’t listen to them. To deal with that anger, be patient. Try to let go of anger, it may help you feel more comfortable opening up to your other emotions.

You may also find it easier to talk about your experiences in certain contexts. For example, while some people may find it easier to talk to their GP or in online chat groups, you may find it more comfortable to talk in a less formal setting such as while watching sports with friends. You can start this conversation with something as simple as asking how others are doing, before sharing your feelings and experiences. Or, if your friends are also parents, you could ask if any of them experienced similar feelings during the postnatal period.

If you’re having trouble talking to loved ones, you might also want to consider using a mental health app. Some people find it easier to use an app to ask questions, find solutions, and discuss how they’re feeling. Apps like DadPad have a number of resources that can help you navigate fatherhood.

Postnatal depression in fathers is real and it matters. Fortunately, compared to just a few years ago, there is more awareness and help available than ever before.

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