Now that more and more mothers are coming forward and sharing their horrendous experiences with postpartum depression, a better understanding of the disorder is slowing being gained. But postnatal depression in dads is also beginning to come to people's attention.
Study reveals postnatal depression in dads are higher than previously thought
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They suffer from stress and anxiety wrought by pregnancy. In fact, according to a new study, one in ten new fathers experience depression after giving birth.
Meanwhile, a Mama Mia story said that in 2012 alone the total number of Australians with perinatal depression was estimated to be 96,156, including 71,177 new mothers and 24,979 new fathers.
If fathers are afflicted with postpartum depression, why are we only noticing it now?
The same Mama Mia report postulated that while mothers are open to discussing their troubles, fathers—males in general—are less so.
“I don’t know about you but I struggle to get my husband to go to the GP for anything, let alone to a psychologist or similar to chat about how he’s feeling,” said Siobhan Rennie, the article’s author. “In a Beyond Blue survey around 40 per cent of fathers said they didn’t seek help even when stressed.”
Much of the triggers behind maternal postpartum depression are the same for paternal postpartum depression, but certain factors are peculiar to fathers.
Some of these include: “A change in family dynamics, feeling excluded from the parenting role, having unrealistic expectations about sex postpartum, feeling like they’re not getting as much attention (and therefore resenting the baby), worries about extra responsibilities and the financial burden and more.”
“It made me wonder—if I’m experiencing postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety, what are my husband’s chances of experiencing either?” said Siobhan.
According to her research, there is a correlation between a father’s PND and his partner’s PND. However, “paternal postnatal depression can also occur independent of how the mum is feeling.”
Men are reluctant to seek help for their troubles and try to solve their problem on their own. That’s just how they are.
But paternal postpartum depression is a disease. It’s a chemical imbalance and something that is beyond one’s control, and just like any other disease, it needs to be treated with the help of a medical professional.
5 things you can do if you feel you have postnatal depression
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Postnatal depression in dads is more common than we previously believed. Yet despite how susceptible new fathers are to getting the illness, many don't get help because of stigma or they're just unaware they are experiencing PND. If you are suffering from the disorder, take heart. There are lots of things you can do to cope with and recover from it.
1. Spot the signs
Getting to know what PND looks like is the first step. The signs are as follows:
- feelings of irritability
- anxious thoughts about caring for the baby
- feeling frustrated with the baby’s crying
The signs can be misconstrued as having a hard day at work. But if these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you likely are suffering from PND.
2. Open up to your spouse
If you've identified that you have PND, it can be a scary time, where you think "what will they think of me?" or "my wife will think I am weak". However, sharing your disorder with someone will go a long way to relieving the burden.
Additionally, if you keep your struggles bottled up, it can lead to thoughts of self-harm or worse, thoughts of harming your own child. Take a step and be brave to tell your spouse about your PND before it becomes too late.
Alternatively, if you spot PND in your other half, you could take the initiative and start the conversation. He may not open up initially, but showing him that your shoulder is always there to lean on is great moral and emotional support.
3. Speak to a specialist
If you don't feel confident or comfortable to open up to your spouse, it's okay to speak to a specialist.
Sometimes, an impartial set of eyes and ears can offer new insight and help for the situation. It doesn't always mean you'll start a course of medication. But speaking with someone trained in mental health therapeutic support can get you back to fighting fit.
4. Learn how to deal with stress
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The stress of a baby crying unrelentlessly is enough to drive anyone up the wall. But it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like avoiding the baby and not wanting to spend time with your little one.
Learning to deal with postpartum stress will ensure you can relieve that stress and help you feel more confident in taking care of your little one.
5. Schedule "Me time"
Postnatal depression in dads can really hit a father's self-esteem. Setting some me time ensures you get some much-needed self-love to maintain your mental resilience to a healthy level.
Go out with the boys for a drink or watch a game. Spend time playing sports or exercising. And don't forget about date nights to keep the fire burning in your marriage!
If the initial joy of holding your newborn has quickly been replaced by dread and fear of going anywhere near your baby, then take stock and reflect. You may have PND. But you're not alone. Take time to make sure you're healthy - a happy dad is integral to a happy family.
If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them with us!