It doesn’t matter if it’s your first, second or fifth… Once a baby is born, everyone in the family adjusts for that tiny human.
Though these changes are expected, physical and emotional changes can overwhelm parents and could lead to stress and anxiety. When the baby blues last longer than a few weeks, when the negative thoughts become worse, it can be a sign of perinatal anxiety and depression.
Every year, 1 out of 7 mums in Australia develop postpartum depression after giving birth.
In the past, postpartum depression (PPD) in mothers has been shrugged off and they are usually told to just get over it. That’s not the case anymore.
Today, people are more aware and have been open in asking mothers about how they are coping with their new baby. More and more women are receiving support from family and friends. That’s great. There’s one thing we’re forgetting, though.
We ask about the baby, about the mum… but what about the fathers? How’s dad doing? Is he okay?
According to numerous studies conducted by professionals, new dads also experience the physical and emotional changes. They also feel the pressure brought by fatherhood. Although postpartum depression is prevalent in mothers, some men also experience the symptoms such as anxiety, repressed feelings, resentment and neglect. Just like new mums, when these symptoms worsen and last longer than two weeks, it can be a sign of PPD. Paternal Postpartum Depression is, in fact, relatively common.
And it is especially difficult for men to accept that they experience PPD. Most think their feelings are invalid since they did not go through carrying the child for months or giving birth. Information about PPD in men is also limited.
Postpartum depression is not caused by one, but a combination of physical and emotional factors. After childbirth, women experience a quick drop in the level of hormones which can lead to physical changes and trigger mood swings. This can partly contribute to PPD in women but emotional factors play a greater role. This makes it likely for men to experience it as well.
According to Beyond Blue, 5% of new fathers experience PPD. Yet, they are silently suffering because of the lack of support. Behavioural changes occur such as becoming detached, becoming irritable, impulsive, insensitive, frustrated and angry.
Other symptoms of paternal postpartum depression include:
- Changes in body weight
- Sudden change in the mood
- Feeling of isolation or wanting to be alone
- Having suicidal thoughts
A 2010 study aimed to compare paternal and maternal postnatal depression. The study found that the chances of dads experiencing depression increases when the mother is experiencing PPD, too.
It also found that PPD has a long-term negative impact in personal, family and child development when left undiagnosed and untreated.
Ending the stigma of addressing postpartum depression
The best way to check on your dad, partner, family or friend who you think is experiencing postpartum depression is to ask how they’re doing and to listen. Men experiencing PPD need to understand that their feelings are real. Dads feeling lost and depressed are okay just the same as the mothers experiencing postpartum depression. It’s temporary. It’s treatable. And they need to know that they are not alone in experiencing these.
How’s mum and dad doing?
If you think you or someone you know is experiencing signs of postpartum depression, the first step is to communicate. Talk to your spouse, to your family, to friends, to someone you trust.
If you are reading this because you think someone close to you is experiencing PPD, make sure to ask the new parents how they’re doing, volunteer to help hold the baby so mum or dad can pee in peace or even let them go out for an hour or two. Some time off will give them time to breathe.
We also encourage all new mums and dads who might need support to do a short mental health checklist test. Mums can take this mental health stress test (Mums, Click HERE) and dads can take this mental health stress test (Dads, Click HERE).
As soon as you feel that something is off, get help. The sooner you get help, the better. If you are experiencing feelings of depression or postnatal depression you can contact beyondblue for support, advice and an action plan. You can always talk to your GP or a family psychologist, contact PANDA or www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au.
Alternatively, you can click on links below:
The transition to parenthood is different for each person and for every child. It’s what makes each relationship unique. And every parent will tell you that having a kid is the scariest, hardest, most rewarding challenge you will ever face in life.
Just so you know, you’re doing a great job!
If you become concerned about any symptoms please seek immediate medical attention we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice CLICK HERE.