Most people have heard of post natal depression and how it affects women, but it may come to you as a surprise that it can also affect men as well. Statistics indicate that one in every 14 men will experience depression throughout the antenatal and postnatal period.
PND is not a new finding, although awareness of its effect on men is. In recent times thanks to increasing social acceptance of men’s emotional needs, there has been a changing trend where some men have felt comfortable discussing their situation and utilising professional help. Although this increase there is still a large majority of fathers that do not access these services.
It seems people associate the joys of childhood to a magical experience where everything is perfect to the point where they overlook the reality of what is required. Having a child is a wonderful experience, but it is also an experience where sometimes you’re faced with a screaming baby with multiple needs, where calming or soothing the baby can be a huge challenge. I suppose this is why we hear parents often using the quote “you will understand what I went through when you have children”.
The signs of PND in new fathers are not atypical of what one might expect in a new mother. Most men are good at hiding their depression from their partners, making it hard to identify if they may have PND. Be understanding with your partner and non-judgemental, look out for changes in their personality and if you feel like something has changed talk to them and be open about your concerns.
There is research to show that PND in fathers can also affect the child later on. A study was conducted where depression in fathers was assessed when the baby was two months and then at twenty one months old. PND at two months doubled the risk of emotional and behavioural problems (such as conduct and hyperactivity) when the child was three and a half. This increased risk was irrespective of whether the mother was depressed. The effects also seemed to be mostly on boys; it is unknown why but could relate to children of that age developmentally identifying with their same sex parent (their father).
There are things that can be done prior or even after the birth of your child if you have concerns regarding PND. It is important to acknowledge that PND affects both men and women and that you should not blame yourself. If you have had depression in the past, speaking to a psychologist can help minimise or prevent PND. Financial or relationship problems can have a huge impact especially when a baby is on its way, so it is important to get the support you need.
In closing PND is a real condition and should not be something to be ashamed of. Requesting assistance is not a sign of weakness, but a mark of intelligence and caring parent. There are treatments available and if you have concerns you should speak to your doctor for further advice.