Guest Post by Donna Crighton
What is PostPartum Depression?
The term ‘postpartum’ means the period immediately after birth. Postpartum depression can affect parents during this time frame and is a recognized mental health condition that can be diagnosed by doctors.
We have always been talking of Postpartum depression among new mums, but have we ever tried probing about the same condition in new dads? Being a new parent is a life-changing experience for both: New Mums & Dads. You might like to also read about a Father’s Advice on Fatherhood
“I believe the biggest stigma right now, with mental health, is that a lot of men are not talking about it”Mauro Ranallo
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For as long as I remember, men have always been expected to ‘keep a brave face on’ especially when it comes to supporting their partner after they have given birth. Yes, many could argue that it has just been recently that a lot more focus has been placed on maternal mental health and rightfully so.
I too have experienced the devastating impact post-partum depression can have, but I also recall watching my husband experience stresses and roller coaster emotions after the birth of our daughter. It made me realise men can suffer too. Men’s postpartum depression is real, so let’s delve into this a little more…
In the UK alone, the National Childbirth Trust found that 1 in 3 fathers are concerned about their mental health but yet post-partum depression in males is still not recognised to the same degree as it is in females. Many hold this preconceived idea that postnatal depression is only down to hormonal changes that are present after a woman gives birth. Yes, it plays a big role but a person’s mental health history and even lifestyle can play a big role too.
Signs & Symptoms of Men’s Postpartum Depression
Regarding hormones being affected after birth, studies by Dr Andrew Mayers, a psychologist specializing in perinatal mental health at Bournemouth University, reports that there is some evidence that men’s testosterone levels reduce somewhat when they become fathers.
This acknowledgement that hormone levels play a pivotal role in father’s also experiencing a decline in mental health when they have a newborn would surely highlight the need for supporting fathers along with mothers but does it? Are the signs that noticeable in fathers who in turn feel that they need to support their family? Below I have detailed possible signs and symptoms to look out for (Credit: Mind).
The signs and symptoms of post-partum depression in males are as follows –
- Fear and confusion.
- Unable to bond with your baby
- Resenting your partner
- Resenting your baby
- Hostility to both mother and baby
- Insomnia, even when you have the chance to sleep
- Physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation and headaches
- Constantly feeling low and possibly suicidal
Plus, like with mothers, men can experience postnatal depression a year or longer after the baby is born. It can have an effect on their mental health and can impact both their personal and professional lives. In the UK, men only get typically two weeks of parental leave (longer in some cases) which can possibly cause men to feel guilty for leaving their baby and feeling like they have not had sufficient time to bond with their child and to create a strong family unit.
If the father is to work long hours or is required to work away from home for any length of period, they then face the added worry of the mother being at home alone with the child if there are no support networks close by.
Also, a new father may have not had a close bond with his own father nor had a good role model for one which can leave men confused and it can bring back those feelings of hurt and perhaps not feeling good enough or loved by their fathers.
Without this role model, some men may feel inadequate and lost when it comes to raising a child and feel that they ‘have to man up’ and ‘step up to the plate’ without accessing support for their feelings.
There can also be a history of abuse whether that being sexual, physical and or emotional perpetrated by their own fathers which can heavily impact a man’s mental health later in life thus causing confusion and perhaps difficulty bonding with their child. But on the contrary, it can also lead to somewhat protective over their child and lack of trust in other potential caregivers such as grandparents.
Furthermore, just like with mothers, men can be inundated with images from social media platforms and other various media that implies fathers to be strong caregivers and that they must be content with becoming a father. This can be very damaging just as much as it is an unrealistic portrayal of fatherhood.
The media and some social media users seem to miss out on the stresses of sleepless nights, nappy changes, non-stop crying etc… So, when you are viewing content that shows happy and smiling dads with their newborns, trust me when I say it is not all sunshine and rainbows!
With any mental health problem, a man can face shame and be fearful of expressing it. Men may feel they may look like a ‘bad dad’ and may fear that they aren’t involved enough. Along with that, there is the added stress of having a newborn which can put a strain on a relationship.
There is a lot of adjustments a couple must make to their lives when they become parents as before they heard the tiny patter of feet, a couple only had to focus on themselves and had a good level of independence. However, once the baby is here the focus is primarily on the baby and a couple can find it difficult to make time for one another and to share the same interests they had before.
So, what can men do if they feel left out with parenting and are feeling anxious or depressed? I would fully encourage them to speak to their partner if they can. You may find that your partner is feeling the same or has noticed that there has been a change in you. They may feel relieved that you feel the same way that they do and that you both need support with dealing with your feelings. You could then possibly discuss what you can both do so you can feel more included and also spend more time together.
Furthermore, speak to your GP. It is becoming more common for men to seek help regarding PND and doctors are now trained to diagnose this in both mothers and fathers. There are many organisations that are recognising now that it can have an impact on fathers too such as MIND and NCT who you can contact for extra support. Many talking therapies can be useful by helping you deal with your issues and finding healthy ways to cope. Most importantly, if you feel suicidal at all please speak to your GP, NHS 24 (UK based) or Samaritans.
About Donna Crigton
Donna Crighton was born in Aberdeen, Scotland where she still resides. She is 38 years old. She is a registered mental health nurse and has been for nine years. She is married & has a daughter called Matilda Rose and has documented her journey into motherhood with her premature daughter in her blog Preemie Mama Drama
She recently had a piece published in the book by the Positive Motherhood Project called
‘Meaning over Milestones: Mothers sharing beliefs, values, purpose and passion with their children’ which is available on Amazon.
Thanks for reading.
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