Postnatal depression is something lots of mums-to-be fear, but strangely it isn’t something that dads think about or talk about. I know my main worry was my wife and baby in those immediate weeks after the birth and when I look back, I did get run down, and I was pretty low at times.
Following your baby’s birth you go through so many different adjustments and these can heighten the chances of depression for dads.
Paternal postnatal depression (PPND) can be as destructive as that suffered by women – although it is spoken about far less. Research shows that between 4% and 25% of men say they suffered from some kind of depression in those first months of parenthood. Interestingly, the statistics rise dramatically for fathers whose partner suffers from PND.
It’s time we start shedding more light on how dads feel after the birth. It’s strange, as I write this, it almost seems wrong. I feel like by talking about PPND, I’m trying to take the spotlight from women, but I think that’s one of the problems.
Post-birth, men are in awe of the pain and sacrifice their partners go through, so they don’t feel they have the right to say they are feeling low. I was certainly guilty of hiding some of my feelings after my son was born, simply because I thought I needed to be strong for my wife as she recovered.
The birth of our boy didn’t go to plan and that hit us hard; physically (for my wife) and mentally. I think the feeling of not having any control during the process of induction and then in the emergency C-section put us both in an unexpected place.
Would I say I was suffering with PPND? No I don’t think so, but I think I was stressed. Could it have developed into PPND if I didn’t talk to my wife, friends and family? I think it could have.
Symptoms of PPND are somewhat vague and cross over with stress. That’s why it’s so hard to identify. Some of the signs can include:
– a sense of inadequacy
– a feeling of inability to cope
– difficulty bonding with the baby
– chronic fatigue
– panicked thoughts
– a lack of interest or motivation
– problems concentrating and making decisions.
Some may argue that any parent would exhibit these symptoms in those crazy first few months. What you need to watch out for is prolonged symptoms. Everyone gets tired; everyone feels like they can’t cope – but if its having a negative effect on your life, don’t ignore it.
Loads of dads still feel uncomfortable about opening up about their emotional health due to stigma and prejudice, but this needs to change. It’s really important that new parents, their friends and their families are aware that PPND exists and can happen to men with no previous mental health problems.
It is also so important to be able to recognise the differences between stress and symptoms of PPND; remember, think about how long you or someone you know has been feeling low.