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)

Self Help

  • 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

Dads Matter UK

Fathers Reaching Out

From Dads to Dads

Mind – 03300 123 3393

National Childbirth Trust

The Dad Network

The Fatherhood Institute

This article is sponsored by Independent health visitors. Check their website for more information. Read more related posts here.