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Why aren't more men discussing paternal postnatal depression?

In the run-up to International Men's Day Priory has conducted research into how men cope following the birth of a child. The results showed paternal postnatal depression is an area deserving of greater focus.

Our polls showed around one in 10 men say they have negative thoughts after having children, and more than one in three (39%) experience some anxieties. One in 15 men believed they were actually suffering from Paternal Post Natal Depression (PPND); this is contrasted with only 2% of those surveyed saying they were officially diagnosed.

According to researchers, paternal postnatal depression generally affects one in 10 fathers, and its effects can be as strong as postnatal depression suffered by women.

Dr Hayley Van Zwanenberg said: "the important issue is for men to take their stress and low feelings seriously and know they are not alone.

"Men too often feel isolated and side-lined when it comes to emotional support after having children."

What are the signs of paternal postnatal depression?

Signs of PPND might include:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • a lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
  • feeling tired all the time
  • difficulty bonding with your baby.

In order to help new fathers see it is okay to admit they’re not coping, Dr van Zwanenberg said she was calling for fuller recognition of paternal postnatal depression and greater campaigning around fathers' mental health.

"Parental depression can have a serious impact on children's behaviour and development so it's vital we widen access to help for it, for the sake of the whole family. We must also support GPs with training to recognise those men who are most vulnerable, such as young fathers," she said.

With the birth of a child, it’s important to recognise the areas which lead to new forms of stress. It's possible this can then trigger depression in some men. These stresses can include:

  • disturbed/lack of sleep
  • changes in responsibilities
  • added pressure on the relationship
  • financial and housing pressure.

"From our research, it is likely that society has underestimated the numbers of fathers who experience anxiety and depression, not least because we know that fathers are less likely than mothers to seek help.

"There are lots of factors which can contribute to depression - worries about your new responsibilities, your loss of freedom, money worries, worrying whether you will be a good father, and if your wife has PND, you might feel more prone to depression too. Men aren't always encouraged to talk about their feelings or share their fears and we want to change the 'just deal with it' mentality.

Some of the signs of depression can include:

  • feeling exhausted and anxious
  • being obsessed with finances
  • beginning to withdraw from your family
  • being irritable or intolerant
  • sleeping badly or too much

Coping mechanisms such as alcohol, bottling up your feelings, or throwing yourself into your work can actually be detrimental. It can be difficult, but try to talk to your partner about the ongoing changes in your lives. This way you can find a route forward together and offer each other the support you need.

Speaking to a family member or friend may also help. Gaining perspective on the things that are worrying you can help relieve the stress and deal with the feelings you're having.

If you still feel like you need additional support, there is the option of speaking to a professional who can consider the nature of your situation and recommend an appropriate way forward as a positive next step.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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