Postpartum depression is a term that’s commonly heard, new mums are taught to be on the lookout for postpartum depression in themselves, but what about fathers? The journey into fatherhood doesn’t always come easily to men. Recent studies out of Europe show that up to 20% of all fathers experience some form of post natal depression. The reality is that postnatal depression in fathers is real.
What exactly have they got to be depressed about? They don’t go through pregnancy or the process of childbirth. Their hormones don’t suddenly open up and crash around them. They don’t have another being physically draining energy out of them. What affects them?
Dads go through similar emotional and mental rollercoasters as a mother does. Their world has been shifted upside down and they often struggle with a connection to the new baby. The focus of attention is typically on the newborn baby and mum, and as a man, you may feel that your needs are overlooked, as a father, you may not be sure of what exactly your role is, or how you fit in. Parenthood also brings new responsibility, for men an added “pressure” to “provide” for his family. Feelings of anxiety, exhaustion and stress.
Typically men expect that “paternal pride” to kick in immediately, but for some this doesn’t happen. If a mother breastfeeds her child it can be seen as an instant connection, she is providing and nurturing her child, fathers may feel left out. Mother and baby are seen as one and fathers are often on the side-lines. I know when my boys were younger and I was feeding them, I know my husband often felt “left out”, he felt he couldn’t “provide” for them and they didn’t “need” him. If they cried at night, he could not soothe them.
Everyone asks, “How is mum doing”, what about dad?
There is also strong correlation to show that is a mother is affected by post partum depression, typically the father is more prone to it as well. Some men do have tell-tale signs of depression, such as sadness, while others may display more aggression, agitation or even become detached. A lot of men start to work longer hours, at work they still feel powerful and needed.
If you feel you/ your partner may be experiencing some form of depression after baby, here are a few tips to include him more:
Try to get dad involved in nappy changing/ bath time more. Bath time could be their special bonding time.
If you are breastfeeding, after feeding hand baba over to dad for the burping and to finally put baby down to sleep. There was a period in time when my firstborn would only fall asleep in daddy’s arms hearing the Qu’ran being recited in his ear.
Express a bottle every now and again for daddy to feed.
If baby wakes at night try to get dad involved, even if it’s just passing the baby over to you (though this is easier said then done 🙂 ).
Encourage dad to exercise, release all that good energy!
If you feel the shift in your partner’s personality is big enough, suggest they speak to a 3rd party/ counsellor to seek treatment.
Postpartum depression is becoming more talked about and is not an uncommon thing anymore. Parenting is a life-changing experience; one that no-one is really prepared for. Our predictable, familiar comfort zone is thrown out of the window and our whole world spins. Try to keep the communication lines open, in most cases, you are there to support each other and life each other up. From a lot of the research done, postpartum depression in dad’s can clear after 4-6 months, once baby starts to become more alert or interactive and starts to recognise faces. As a mother, support your partner and try to encourage him as much as possible. Shower him in praise at his parenting skills and let him know that you couldn’t do it without him. Let him feel needed.