PND is generally perceived as a condition that affects women in those first few months after having a baby, but research suggests that up to 10% of new fathers are suffering a similar form of depression after the birth of their child. Men find it harder to recognise and accept that they might be depressed. The symptoms can be similar to those described for women but men may be particularly irritable, angry or uncommunicative. Men are likely to see these feelings as a weakness (which it is not). Fathers can feel excluded from the relationship between the mother and the baby. Two thirds of fathers may experience their own version of the ‘blues’. They can feel inadequate for the task in hand, less in control of their own lives and “on the outer” in their relationship with their partner. Fathers may feel that the birth of the baby has brought about the loss of the familiar partner that he has known. It also brings the loss of the relationship that they once shared. There is the loss of control, loss of intimacy and the loss of how things used to be.

Being a father may not come naturally to all men. How they cope depends on many factors:

  • Their own experience of being fathered.
  • Whether they find relationships easy or challenging.
  • Whether they have had contact with babies and children before.

It is important to remember that pregnancy is a challenging time for fathers as well. They may worry about:

  • Will his partner and baby be healthy?
  • Will he be able to provide for the family?
  • How will he protect his family?
  • How will his relationship with his partner change?
  • Does he feel an important part of his baby’s growth and development?

Fathers adjust best if they are included in the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for the baby. Fathers need to spend time developing their relationship with the baby. This will also help their mood.

Reasons Why Men May Develop PND

  • A history of depression themselves and/or in their family.
  • Financial worries.
  • Marriage or relationship problems.
  • Thoughts and feelings of inadequacy.
  • A feeling of isolation and/or no family, friends to help out.
  • Physical health problems.
  • Inevitable changes to lifestyle and routines.
  • Coming to terms with fatherhood and all the emotional, physical changes and a sense of responsibility that it brings with it.
  • The strain of coping with their partners PND.

There are hundreds of reasons why depression might occur and many have nothing to do with becoming a father.

Support Men with PND

A GP is a good point of contact and can help offer advice on ways to cope with the PND.

Mothers can help support their partners who are experiencing PND. Although it’s difficult to provide adequate support when you have a new baby to care for, there are some simple measures mums can take to help their partner feel better and more positive about life. Just being there for him when he wants a chat, being sensitive to his needs and finding at least an hour or two each week to be together can make all the difference to his recovery – if you work through it together your relationship may also become stronger too.

The very worst thing that can happen is if he’s left to battle the blues by himself.

Other helpful methods:

  • Keep physically active – a brisk walk can do wonders for the soul and make you feel better about things.
  • Meet up with friends. Socialising outside of the family unit can be a great remedy for depressed dads – it reminds them that they are an individual, that there are other things going on in the world, other people to make them laugh etc.
  • Chatting to other dads going through a similar experience can help.
  • Invest time in hobbies or take up a new interest such as fishing, art or photography.
  • Watch your alcohol and drug intake, it is very easy at this stressful time to find refuge in alcohol and drugs which can lead onto other problems.

If you find that the depression isn’t easing, counselling may help. Some men might find the thought of revealing their thoughts to a complete stranger horrifying, but statistics show that it can be surprisingly effective at easing the symptoms of depression and helping people to think more positively.