The role of being a father is usually a happy time, although it may be a susceptible time for some fathers. Genesoni & Tallandini (2009) highlighted issues such as adapting to the responsibility of fatherhood, meeting the emotional needs of the family, work/personal related concerns & economic stressors; as new fathers attempt to cope with several new challenges.
The chart below was used in the #CheckYourSymptoms campaign, during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. “Changes in your menstrual cycle” are similar to hormonal changes in the levels of testosterone in men, which is linked to competitiveness & aggression.
In their research, Wynne-Edwards & Reburn (2000) found levels of testosterone were lower after birth, which supports paternal care & attachment. Whereas oestrogen, the bonding, nurturing hormone levels were increased after birth in new fathers.
Most people associate postnatal depression with mothers. Paulson & Bazemore (2010) found 10% of fathers experienced postnatal depression. Risk factors such as a baby with sleep problems, unemployment, a history of depression, reduced social support & relationship issues were found by Philpott & Corcoran (2018). Other symptoms can include anger, alcohol or drug use & partner violence.
A study by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) found that 1 in 3 (38%) of new fathers are concerned about their mental health. The antenatal period is the ideal time to assess both mother & fathers’ mental health & well-being. Topics e.g. my relationship & family life, becoming a parent, recent/past experiences & my priorities, plans & support can be explored, & support provided.
Mark Williams founded International Fathers Mental Health Day, Dads Matter UK & #HowAreYouDad campaign, to raise awareness around postnatal depression in men. He describes his experience of postnatal depression & fatherhood in his new book Daddy Blues: Postnatal Depression & Fatherhood; which was triggered by being present at the traumatic birth of his son.
Mark is campaigning to have all fathers screened & healthcare professionals to educate families on the signs & symptoms. He simply wants to “bring about a “more holistic approach” with support in place for both parents to bring about “better outcomes” Community Practitioner (2018).
Promoting & Supporting Fathers’ Mental Health & Well-Being
- Fathers’ should be included in all aspects of maternity care, along with their partners, including mental health screening.
- Health visitors should explore expectations, experiences & feelings of fatherhood at the new birth visit or antenatal contact.
- The signs & symptoms of postnatal depression should be discussed with both mothers & fathers & details of how to access support for their partner or themselves.
- Discussions about postnatal depression should be included routinely in postnatal contacts.
- Support systems must be in place for the father if the mother is experiencing postnatal depression. Baldwin (2016)
- Talking & sharing feelings with your wife, partner, family members, friends, GP or counsellor.
- Ask for help.
- Maintain your hobbies, social activities, exercise & go for walks.
- Eat a healthy diet & drink plenty of water.
- Get enough rest & time for yourself is important too.
- Join a local support group or online group.
- You may require medical or psychological support.
It is clear from the research that postnatal depression in fathers is a public health issue, requiring more support for men during their transition to fatherhood.
Additional Support Available
Mind – 03300 123 3393