Postnatal depression - are fathers at risk?

Posted by iChild, January 15, 2020 5:46 PM

By Dr. Mark Winwood, leading psychological expert at AXA PPP healthcare

Can men get postnatal depression and is there any help out there for new dads who do suffer?

Interesting question – there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that paternal postnatal depression is a very real problem. Research cited on the NHS website found that up to 1 in 10 new dads experience depressive symptoms after the birth of their child, yet it’s only very recently that postnatal depression in men has been more widely acknowledged. It’s likely this is because of the widely held belief that postnatal depression is caused by hormonal changes women experience post-birth. We now know that postnatal depression is actually triggered by a number of factors, of which hormonal changes are just one possible contender. And many of these factors apply to both parents: adjusting to a major life-change, lack of sleep and fear of failure, to name but a few.

New dad

When there is a lot of pressure financially, emotionally and physically on a new father, it can cause excessive stress, which can then lead to depression. Dads (like mums) are also at a higher risk if they have previously suffered from depression or if they’re a single parent, having the full responsibility of caring for a newborn baby with no support from a partner.

A considerable factor can be that the balance and focus have shifted in the relationship. With either or both parents’ attention now mostly taken up on the baby, leaving little time or energy left for each other as a couple.

Evidence suggests that fathers can be impacted by postnatal depression in their partners. Same sex partners will be impacted in a similar way although there’s less research in this area. The other individuals who may experience the effects of a new mum or dad’s depressive symptoms are the other children in the family. There is evidence to suggest that a child's psychological state and general wellbeing may be affected by their parent’s depression. Clearly, if someone is depressed the symptoms they have can affect everyone in the system (family, work, friendship networks) so any support and treatment offered should take this into consideration.

The good news is that help is available. The NCT has some useful information for dads and partners, which includes postnatal depression in dads.

By Dr. Mark Winwood, leading psychological expert at AXA PPP healthcare

For more information, please visit AXA PPP healthcare.

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