Perinatal Anxiety and Depression in Men
While we regularly check in with new Mums, take a moment to also ask how Dad is going! Most people are surprised to know that around 1 in 20 men experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy (antenatal) and up to 1 in 10 new dads struggle with depression following the birth of their baby (postnatal).
Like with many forms of anxiety and depression, men are often reluctant to talk about their feelings - especially when it comes to being a new parent.`Bringing a new child into the World is a scary, emotional and overwhelming time. On top of all of the emotion, a new Dad will often feel they need to hold down the fort because it is a particularly difficult time for new Mothers. As a result of these feelings, if not addressed, it may cause the new Dad to withdraw emotionally from both Mum and Baby. They may feel incapable or scared of looking after the baby alone. They may not bond with the baby. The role of Dad is quite different in the early days. As a baby relies heavily on their Mother for food and support, the Father may feel like he is not needed. As time passes and the baby gets older, if the emotional anxiety or depression is not addressed, it can become worse and can still linger months after baby is born - much in the same way as it does in Women. The difference here is that we commonly look more toward the Mother for signs of post natal depression. We don't often asks the Dads if they are OK.
While anxiety and depression appears differently for each expecting and new dad some of the common symptoms can be:
Information from PANDA
- Constant tiredness or exhaustion
- Ongoing headache. High physical stress levels e.g. muscle tension
- Loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep problems (unrelated to baby’s sleep)
- Ongoing irritability, anger or moodiness
- Emotional withdrawal from your partner, baby, family, friends
- Fear of looking after your baby
- Not wanting to communicate with your partner, family and friends
- Feeling isolated
- Using alcohol or drugs to ‘escape’ or cope
- Suicide thoughts.
Treatment for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression
Information from PANDA
It is really important for a new or expecting dad to seek support and treatment for how he is feeling as early as possible to help get better as soon as possible. Seeking support might include:
- Talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust, so they can provide you with support. This might be a friend or a family member. Once you start talking you might be surprised at how many people have had similar experiences.
- Talking to a doctor can be an important step to getting help.
- Therapy or counselling might be recommended to help you. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign that you are taking the steps necessary to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts or are feeling disoriented it’s important to get help immediately. You can talk to your doctor, call the PANDA Helpline or Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7).
The good news is that there are a lot more community support programs available now to help Dads. Much like a Mother's group, there are many community based New Dad's groups that allow new Fathers to get together and talk about their experiences and their feelings in a safe environment with others who are going through the same thing. It is important that you don't suffer in silence.
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