Most people are surprised to know that around 1 in 20 men experience anxiety or depression during their partner’s pregnancy and up to 1 in 10 new dads struggle with anxiety or depression following the birth of their baby.
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, we know that men who feel unsupported or who lack information about what to expect with pregnancy or childbirth may be at increased risk.
We also know that new and expecting dads are often not the best at seeking help for themselves if they’re struggling. What we hear from dads who call PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline is that they want to be the rock of the family.
New dads often feel the pressure of living up to society’s expectations that they should be able to hold themselves together in order to support their partner and new baby. That any feelings they themselves have of fear, sadness or overwhelm need to be buried deep down and not acknowledged or addressed.
Dads who are struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression often feel reluctant to make what they’re feeling a priority. One of the things we hear a lot from dads on is that they feel guilty about their feelings when their partner has been through the physical process of pregnancy and giving birth.
It’s important to remember that no one can help being sick – and perinatal anxiety and depression is an illness. Here at PANDA we want everyone to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of this illness when it affects men, so if they are experiencing these symptoms themselves, or can identify them in a new dad they know, they can seek help as soon as possible.
Perinatal depression and anxiety in men – when and how to seek help
We want men to know that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It’s actually a sign of being a good dad who wants the best for his family.
When to seek help for perinatal depression and anxiety
While the signs and symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety can vary, they may include:
- Constant tiredness or exhaustion
- Ongoing headache and high physical stress levels e.g. muscle tension
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that previously brought joy
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep problems (unrelated to baby’s sleep)
- Ongoing irritability, anger or moodiness
- Emotional withdrawal from your partner, baby, family, friends
- Fear of caring for baby
- Not wanting to communicate with your partner, family and friends
- Feeling isolated
- Using alcohol or drugs to ‘escape’ or cope
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’re experiencing these symptoms it is important to seek help as the earlier you find support the better the outcome. If you’re having suicidal thoughts it is vital that you seek help immediately by contacting your GP or attending your local hospital’s emergency department.
How to get help for perinatal depression and anxiety
The first step in help-seeking is often the hardest. New dads who are struggling or loved ones who are worried about the new or expecting dads in their lives, can visit PANDA’s website. There they can find plenty of information and resources to help them understand what is going on. They can also read about other dads’ experiences with perinatal anxiety and depression.
They can also ring PANDA’s helpline to talk to one of the skilled and compassionate counsellors.
So to all the new and expecting dads out there, let me say this – if you’re struggling, don’t be ashamed to seek help. It’s the very best thing you can do for your family.