What Is Post-Natal Depression In Dads?  

Some fathers may have natural instincts regarding what to do when they become fathers, but this isn’t true for every dad out there. Many men feel confused, stressed, or anxious after a baby is born, needing time before they become more comfortable in their parental role. 

Research has shown that a significant percentage of fathers experienced mental health struggles during early parenthood. 

A 2020 review in The Journal of Affective Disorders looked at several studies with 20,728 subjects to assess the prevalence of prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers, finding that the incidence of both conditions was significantly common.  

It’s clear that post-natal depression in dads is a significant issue, but what is post-natal depression in dads? 

In short, postnatal depression is a type of depression that parents can experience after a baby is born. People are often familiar with postnatal depression in women, but postnatal depression is a common issue that can also affect fathers and partners, not just mothers.

We’ll cover more about post-natal depression in dads and partners below, including how help from Home Start Cymru can help parents deal with post-natal depression symptoms. 

What Is Paternal Post-Natal Depression?

If you’re a partner of someone pregnant or recently gave birth, you might feel as though the main focus should be on their health and wellbeing. 

Women often look for support for themselves and their baby around the birth period, which is why postnatal depression is diagnosed more in women. However, fathers and partners can also develop mental health issues during this time. 

The idea that men shouldn’t be emotional, be a rock for their partners, and should ‘get on with it’ is prevalent in modern culture. Male mental health is regularly overlooked during early fatherhood, while many communities haven’t heard of paternal post-natal depression. 

Though doubt around post-natal depression in males exists, research shows that 10% of men experience depressive symptoms after their baby is born, which is twice the general rate of depression in males. 

Men can feel shame for experiencing anxiety or depression when they are expected to be excited during this period. This may lead to isolating themselves away from friends or families, causing a decline in their mental health. 

Male mental health is regularly overlooked during early fatherhood, while many communities haven’t heard of paternal post-natal depression. 

Symptoms of Male Post-Natal Depression

Some of the symptoms of male post-natal depression include: 

  • Feeling hopeless, down, or sad.
  • Constant numbness, tiredness, or exhaustion.
  • Not wanting to do anything.
  • Feeling like you cannot cope.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Thoughts of guilt or shame.
  • Trouble focusing or making decisions.
  • Worry over whether you have a bond with your baby.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, as depression symptoms in new fathers can differ. Being aware of post-natal depression symptoms can help you understand what you are going through, as well as what to do when seeking support for the condition.  

What Causes Post-Natal Depression In Fathers?

Though males do not go through physical birth or pregnancy, the move to parenthood comes with its challenges. 

Here are some factors that can lead to male post-natal depression:

Settling Into A New Routine

Nothing can prepare parents for the responsibilities related to caring for a baby until the baby is born. 

Parents need to learn how to perform practical tasks properly, but concern over getting parenting ‘right all the time’ can be a huge worry for both partners. Distress over how to ease a baby when they cry can trouble parents, as well as questions over when their baby will wake after sleeping, which can prevent proper sleep. 

Though fathers are an important presence in a baby’s life, fathers are regularly required to go back to work after their baby is born. The mix of completing work tasks, being a new father, and supporting their partner through a difficult period can be stressful, adding to the likelihood of post-natal depression in fathers. 

Financial Problems

Following on from the point above, it’s rare to find couples that are completely prepared for a new baby to become part of their family. Couples can underestimate the amount of work that’s needed in the period after a baby is born, unprepared for the financial cost of raising a child. 

Fathers can feel stress over when they should go back to work, as well as how much work they should be taking on to contribute to a household. Money issues increase stress felt between both parents or single fathers, adding to the symptoms of post-natal depression. 

Fathers can feel stress over when they should go back to work, as well as how much work they should be taking on to contribute to a household.

Hormone Changes

Men can experience hormonal changes as they transition into fatherhood, even though they don’t give birth themselves. Testosterone levels in men decrease after their baby is born, then rises in the few months following birth. 

This decrease in testosterone can be linked with male depression. Though decreased male testosterone is normal following birth, men often focus on their partner during this time, disregarding their hormone variations and changes in themselves. 

Things That Can Help With Post-Natal Depression In Dads

Post-natal depression is a complex condition that requires specialist advice and care. That being said, there are some things fathers can do to take care of themselves around the birth of their baby. 

Planning and Preparation

Once your baby is born, changing nappies, sleep schedules, and feeding times can take over, leading dads to overlook their mental health and self-care. The tasks and responsibilities of being a dad, partner, and family provider can become exhausting and tiresome. 

The transition to fatherhood is a busy time, but remember to prioritise healthy lifestyle elements, like a good diet, getting fresh air, and regular physical activity. This sounds like general advice, but a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial when it comes to managing stress and depression

Mindfulness techniques, like meditation, may help, but everyone is different, so what works for one father might not for another. Set aside some time to try various methods, like meditation, yoga, or journaling, and see which ones you like the most. 

Talk It Out

Taking care of your health might seem impossible when your baby is born, but think of your well-being as an essential requirement, instead of a luxury. 

You don’t need to spend hours running outside or spend hours lifting weights – talking to a friend can be incredibly helpful for your mental health. Speaking about your experience can feel like a weight off of your shoulders, particularly if you can speak to people who are fathers themselves. 

Try to avoid expecting too much from a single conversation. Understanding mental health problems can take a while, so your friends and family might need a while to process anything you’ve told them. 

The stigma around males and mental health means that some might not be that understanding of male depression, so think about who would be the most supportive out of your loved ones before you share. 

Speaking about your experience can feel like a weight off of your shoulders, particularly if you can speak to people who are fathers themselves. 

Look For Outside Support 

Following on from the point above, men are less likely than women to seek support when experiencing hardship, but it’s important not to suffer in silence. It can be hard to look for support, but remember that you don’t have to go through this difficult period alone.  

Support organisations, a GP, or a therapist can help you deal with male post-natal depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy involves using techniques to recognise and change your thinking patterns and cope with hard situations. 

A GP might recommend therapy or depending on your symptoms, might recommend medications to manage symptoms of depression, but keep in mind that most medications need between six and eight weeks before they begin to work. 

Support organizations, like Home-Start Cymru, can help fathers manage post-natal depression. This won’t be medical advice or treatment, but it can provide much-needed practical help and emotional support. 

How We Can Help

At Home Start Cymru, we support families who are going through challenges, like post-natal depression, physical health problems, isolation, and other issues related to parenting and family life. 

Our Dad Matters Cymru scheme aims to assist dads with their parenting experience, helping them deal with stress, mental health, and anxiety around the birth of their baby.

Our trained volunteers work with families to give confidential, understanding advice and support, depending on what each family needs. We give dads a safe space to talk about their worries and experiences around parenting, including giving them tailored support on managing this important stage of their life. 

Symptoms of post-natal depression in dads can be tough to deal with, but if you need support or want to talk about your parenting experience as a father, Home-Start Cymru and Dad Matters Cymru can help. 

Get in touch at 07470 563 829, or send us an email at dadmatterscymru@homestartcymru.org.uk.