Find out how to recognise the signs of post-natal depression in fathers.
Long recognised as a serious condition for mothers, an increasing number of fathers are now also suffering from post-natal depression. Whether it is down to the increased pressures facing modern-day fathers or better diagnosis by the medical profession, it is important to recognise the symptoms when they occur.
A new father shares his personal experience of coping with the arrival of his first child. Michael talks candidly to AskBaby:
"The arrival of my new baby was a genuinely life-changing experience. For me, the actual birth marked the end of any last lingering thoughts of denial and I quickly had to face the reality of being a parent. Things were further complicated by the fact that our daughter was born via a C-section, which meant that my paternity leave was spent looking after both mother and baby. Throw in a nasty bout of Mastitis and my work colleagues vision of me spending two weeks playing Call of Duty and making my way through all 8 series of 24 could not of been further from reality.
Then it was time to go back my to high-pressured job. Not only was I supposed to be performing at maximum efficiency on only 4 hours sleep a night, but I now also had the added pressure of being the main bread winner. God forbid that my boss should ever catch me sneaking 40 winks at my desk or I end up chinning a difficult client in a state of sleep-deprived psychosis and get my P45. I found myself haunted by images of my partner and child ending up in some modern day version of a Dickensian poorhouse and me banished from ever having any contact with either of them again.
And on those days when all you want to do is crawl in through the front door and plonk yourself in front of the TV? Instead you are greeted with a dirty nappy that needs changing, a screaming child thrust at you by an exhausted mum or a list of chores as long as your arm that need to be done.
Don't get me wrong. I consider myself to be lucky beyond measure. I have a beautiful, happy, healthy daughter. She is a doddle to feed and occasionally lets us get nearly four hours of sleep in one go. Next to the issues faced by some of the parents on our maternity ward, we are only too aware of how fortunate we are. But it is very, very hard work."
Parents under pressure
No, it's not easy being a dad these days. Not only are they counted on to be the main bread winner, but they are also expected to take an active role in caring for their newborn child. Add to this sleep deprivation, changes in lifestyle, new responsibilities and it is no wonder that recent research has revealed that as many as 1 in 10 fathers may be suffering from post-natal depression.
What causes it?
Where mothers have the support of midwives or organisations such as the NCT following birth, fathers can be left feeling rather isolated. Combine this with an unwillingness among males to open up to one another and it is easy to see how many cases of post-natal depression among fathers remain undiagnosed.
Triggers for post-natal depression among men can be fears or anxieties caused by the responsibilities of fatherhood, concerns about money, job security, relationship issues with your partner or not having anyone to talk to about how you feel.
Recognising the symptoms
For fathers, some signs of post-natal depression can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from the normal tiredness associated with caring for a baby. However, it is important to recognise the symptoms when they occur:
- Low mood for a prolonged period of time
- Panic attacks or a feeling of being trapped
- Feeling tearful
- Feelings of guilt, rejection, inadequacy or an inability to cope
Mothers can also help by keeping a watchful eye out for any of the following signs in their partner:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty sleeping
If you find yourself suffering or think that your partner is suffering from any of the above symptoms for a prolonged period of time then you should contact your GP. Post-natal depression is a recognised illness and can be successful treated with antidepressant drugs and counselling. Talking to a close friend or member of family can also be a source of comfort and reassurance and aid your recovery.