Dads experience postnatal depression, too
In fact, up to one in 10 will.
Some of the risk factors that can make experiencing depression antenatally (while your partner’s pregnant) or postnatally (after your baby’s born) more likely are if:
- you’ve experienced depression before, or
- your partner’s experiencing depression (and one in five mums do experience postnatal depression).
Other risk factors include things like relationship or money issues, a sick or premature baby, or if you’re worried about your partner because she’s had a tricky pregnancy, traumatic birth, or difficult recovery.
There’s also growing evidence that, just like mums, dads also experience hormone changes when their baby’s born (including fluctuations in testosterone, estrogen and cortisol, the stress hormone) that may negatively impact mental health.
Luke talks about his experience with postnatal depression
What about anxiety?
Postnatal anxiety is thought to be as common as postnatal depression in dads, and many men experience anxiety and depression at the same time.
If you’re feeling low or not like yourself, make sure you reach out and talk to someone.
It’s not a weakness to ask for help – it’s the smart, strong thing to do for the sake of yourself, your partner and your whānau.
Life feels better when you’re happy and well.
When to get help
It’s better to speak up about mental health sooner rather than later – just like your physical health.
If you cut your arm off with a chainsaw, you wouldn’t wait six months before calling an ambulance.
It’s the same with your mental health. If you’re feeling low and unlike yourself, don’t wait six months before calling for help.
Like a chainsaw wound, depression and anxiety don’t tend to just come right by ignoring them or self-medicating with drugs, alcohol or other unhealthy distractions (like spending all your time at work). Unfortunately, often it just gets worse.
If you’ve been experiencing some of the ‘signs to watch out for’ for over two weeks, it’s time to ask for help.
There are lots of people you can reach out to help get back on track to feeling happy and well:
- your partner, friends, whānau, colleagues – someone you trust
- your GP/family doctor – will offer you support and refer you to other specialist health providers (e.g. counsellor, psychiatrist) if necessary
- PlunketLine (0800 933 922) – our nurses are here for you 24/7. This is a free service, and free call
- text or call 1737– New Zealand’s free, 24/7 counselling service
- Kidz Need Dadz (KND) has a free, Dadzkare support line – 0800 563 123
- Lifeline (0800 543 354 or text 4357) is also there 24/7 if you’re in a dark place
- Great Fathers | Mana Mātua offers parenting support and tips for dads
Paternal depression and anxiety: Signs to watch out for
Common physical signs might include:
- lack of appetite
- trouble sleeping, or sleeping and waking at usual times
- weight loss or gain
- ongoing headaches or muscle tension (high physical stress levels).
Changes in emotion and moods can also be signs of antenatal or postnatal depression. For example, you might feel:
- guilty or ashamed
- cranky, anxious or angry
- isolated or disconnected from your partner, friends or whānau
- unable to enjoy things that you used to find fun
- fear of looking after your baby.
You might have changes in thinking - for example, you might:
- be unable to concentrate or remember things
- have trouble making decisions or doing everyday tasks
- have thoughts of being overwhelmed, out of control, or like you can’t cope
- think about death or suicide.
You might also have changes in behaviour - for example, you might:
- not be interested in sex
- withdraw from your family or want to spend more time at work
- use drugs or alcohol to try and cope.
Source: Antenatal depression and postnatal depression in men
Kia kaha – Be strong
Lots of dads feel like they need to be strong and hold the family together – especially if mum’s having a difficult time with her mental health, too.
But the strong thing to do is to ask for help. Don’t suffer in silence.
Postnatal anxiety and depression are medical conditions and are often temporary and treatable – especially if you get help nice and early.
Speak up. It’s the best thing you can do to support your whānau.