Being a dad is awesome. Being a father for the first time might be very stressful and lead to anxiety and depression. Recent research shows that men can be affected by postnatal depression too. This is no joke. Depression can kill, we need to talk about it.

Paternal postnatal depression is very common, it might happen within the first year since becoming a father. NCT confirming that risk is high and we need to address this issue.

Can you imagine mother and father who will go through postnatal depression and the impact of this on wee one’s life?
In my organisation I had a chance to work with many fathers, some of them also experienced baby blues or a severe level of postnatal depression and anxiety.
Especially young fathers, who feel pressured to provide, to be a breadwinner, they often feel that the whole family is watching them and looking at their action which can lead to ongoing stress and greater anxiety, as being a fresh dad is not stressful enough.

Many dad’s are pushed aside, mums and mothers in law taking over. In my work as Father and Child Wellbeing Worker quite often fathers are telling me that not a single professional asked them about their mental health, their feelings or how are they doing after becoming a parent. This was for me truly shocking. GP’s. Midwives, Health Visitors, sometimes Social Workers, some of them don’t even reach out to fathers.
I know that father’s are quite often quickly returning to work, at the moment in Scotland we have 2 weeks of paternity leave, with plans of extending it in the future for mothers and fathers especially.

 

 

The policy is based on research suggesting that increased paternal involvement with a baby has a lasting impact on the sharing of responsibilities for the child and as a result, women are more often able to re-enter the workplace.

Currently, new mothers get 52 weeks a year of maternity leave. The SNP plan would extend shared parental leave to 64 weeks, with the additional 12 weeks to be ring-fenced for the father in order to encourage take-up. Share parental leave should be increased. We need to also change expectations of today’s society and talk about research and breaking stereotypes regarding the role of fathers as this clearly evolving.

I remember when my first child was born, it was an overwhelming experience and I was 28 years old, back then. The worst part of this experience was going back to work after just two weeks. I felt totally lost, worried, stressed. trying to focus on work but thinking about my wife and our son. I felt sad and deeply unhappy that I had to go back to work.

 

Every day, the same story. I wasn’t able to leave my house and my family, I felt punished for being a man, for being a father. I felt a huge unfairness about this model. Two weeks, that’s it?

 

A few years later when my daughter was born I felt exactly the same. This is very, very wrong to be given only two weeks to be at home with your child and the mother of your child. I cannot imagine how fathers of children with any complications would feel when their little one is still in hospital and they have to get back to work as men are expecting to do so.

 

According to NCT postnatal depression in dads can show itself in many different ways.

Symptoms can include:

  • fear, confusion, helplessness and uncertainty about the future
  • withdrawal from family life, work and social situations
  • indecisiveness
  • frustration, irritability, cynicism and anger
  • marital conflict
  • partner violence
  • negative parenting behaviours
  • alcohol and drug use
  • insomnia
  • physical symptoms like indigestion, changes in appetite and weight, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, toothaches and nausea.

 

 

This is no joke. We all have some baggage of experience in our lives, ways of upbringing might also have a huge impact on our mental health and parenting skills.
If you add to it your own experience or no experience at all if it comes to babies, being a very young dad who is scared and anxious as everyone is telling you that you have to step up to the plate – this simply can lead you to severe depression. Being a father, in that case, might be tough or even break you. We need to change the views about mental health of men.

Ws should think about making our services father proofed, we need to reach out to fathers, ask them all those questions we ask new mothers. If a father is not present, we, as professionals should make an effort and arrange to visit in a suitable time for working dads. We need to make this effort and find out about the involvement of fathers and their mental health. Doesn’t matter if parent’s of newborn living separately or father is working hard to provide. He’s mental health is as equally important and has a huge impact on a baby’s wellbeing as mothers, especially in the first months of becoming a parent.

What’s your opinion about supporting new dads and your own experiences with local services?