Perinatal anxiety and depression in dads
There is a widespread belief that perinatal anxiety and/or depression are only experienced by women.
This is not the case.
Research shows that around 1 in 20 men experience depression during pregnancy (antenatal) and up to 1 in 10 new dads struggle with depression following the birth of their baby (postnatal). Anxiety is thought to be as common and many men experience anxiety and depression at the same time. It is important to know that help is available and the earlier help is sought the better the outcome for dad and baby. Men are more at risk of developing perinatal anxiety and/or depression if their partner is experiencing it.
Men can also experience antenatal and postnatal depression independently from their partners.
New fathers don’t tend to access the sort of services that new mothers do at this time in the new family’s life, such as their doctor, maternal and child health nurse, or midwife. Yet through these avenues is where problems for women are often first picked up. It is important that men and their partners learn to recognise and be aware of the signs of antenatal and postnatal depression so that they can seek help as early as possible. We know that the earlier you ask for help the faster the recovery which also helps to minimise the impact on the family. We also know that it does not discriminate and affects people across the community regardless of age, income, city/rural residence or occupation.
What’s it Like for Men?
People often think that depression is a form of extreme sadness, characterised by a low mood or constant crying. In fact, anxiety or depression can lead to a very agitated state of mind in some people. Men with depression may
feel wound up, frustrated, or unable to relax – a feeling sometimes described as ‘like being trapped’, or ‘pacing in a cage’. They can have outbursts of anger or rage that are ‘not in character’, leading to feelings of shame or guilt. It is important to recognise these symptoms as signs it may be time to get some help, and not let them simmer away or keep them bottled up.
Who Might be More at Risk?
Men from all walks of life, and all cultures, even those who generally feel confident and assured, can experience anxiety or depression as part of becoming a parent. However, men who feel unsupported or who lack information about what to expect with pregnancy or childbirth may be at increased risk.
The steps to getting help are:
Understand the problem: recognise the risks, symptoms or signs. As a general rule, symptoms that last for more than two weeks should be checked out with a health professional.
Act on these early: the longer the problem is left, the worse it can get. It is courageous and honest to admit that you need help.