Can men get postnatal depression? Let's start talking about new dads and mental health
While it's a well-known fact that women can suffer this particular type of mental illness. But many question whether men can get postnatal depression.
Hopelessness. Panic attacks. Anger. Mood swings. Anxiety. Depression. Thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If someone you loved was suffering from any, or all, of these symptoms, you’d encourage them to see a doctor, pronto.
If it was a woman who had just given birth, you would reassure her. Tell her it’s a case of the baby blues and only natural.
But how would you react if it was a new dad? Would you be as supportive? Or would you tell them to “man up”, to think of their partner, remind them that it isn’t them who has just given birth?
Can men get postnatal depression?
While the realities of postnatal depression have long been acknowledged for new mothers, men are often considered to be immune from the psychological effects of early parenthood.
Yet, according to the Priory, one in ten new fathers experience postnatal depression.
In fact, research by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the UK’s largest charity for parents, has also shown that 38% of new fathers are worried about their mental health.
Does it look the same in men and women?
A growing body of research-based evidence supports the idea that men suffer from the condition, yet it’s something health authorities around the world are still failing to properly acknowledge.
This is despite the fact that many of the factors that act as a catalyst for postnatal depression in women also apply to men.
There is a (mistaken) belief that an overwhelming number of hormones, along with personal physical traumas, trigger the condition; but in reality, exhaustion, dramatic lifestyle changes, financial and time pressures are all believed to play their part.
New research also suggests that men experience significant hormone changes in the weeks and months after the birth of a new child.
It can affect the children
And it’s not only the fathers that suffer, children do too.
Studies have shown that early bonding moments, which are often negatively impacted by postnatal depression, are crucial to childhood development.
According to a study published in 2016, children affected by paternal postnatal depression exhibit lower wellness levels by the age of seven and higher levels of behavioural problems. This is especially seen in boys.
In failing to publicly and socially accept that men can suffer too, we deny them the early help and support that could halt this pattern. And by doing so, we deny children the best start in life.
What help is available?
Well, treatment for depression itself is available on the NHS in the UK, and through health insurance in the USA.
Mental health charities can also provide support through things like telephone lines. But there is relatively little support specifically focused around paternal postnatal depression in either country.
To put it bluntly: support may be there, but it’s less forthcoming, less proactive.
Doctors have documented the potentially devastating effects of female postnatal depression on relationships. With this in mind, it is naive to think that this is not a two-way street and does not apply to men too.
If you believe you or someone you know may be affected by postnatal depression, help is available. Visit the NCT website or helpline on 0300 330 0700 or contact your doctor.