By Elly Taylor on 28 November 2018
You get home late from work, go straight to the computer (or garage, television or man cave), are irritable and moody most of the time and when your partner asks “what’s wrong?” you say “I don’t want to talk about it”. If this sounds like you, you could be dealing with dad’s Postnatal Depression. Yes, it’s a thing.
In fact, around 10% of new dads suffer from Paternal Postpartum/Postnatal Depression (PPD), but it’s still under the radar. One reason it’s hidden is that symptoms, like being agitated, withdrawn, increased drinking, recklessness or even feelings of jealousy towards the baby, can easily be misinterpreted or dismissed.
Seeing a dad like this, mothers and others can make the mistake of thinking a man “has changed” since becoming a father. And maybe he has – but not in a way he would choose to, realise why or necessarily have control over. Because what often remains unseen beneath these confronting behaviours are vulnerable feelings of being inadequate, left out or irrelevant. A “third wheel” is how many men describe it. Like he’s “lost” his wife or partner to the baby is another thing men say..
There’s unspoken grief in all of this.
Fifty percent of dads are more likely to get PPD if the mother suffers from Postnatal Depression too. Other factors which could lead to an increased risk of PPD in men include:
At some level, many dads are aware that life’s tougher for the new mother and feels ashamed about that too. All these factors lead to having a greater need, but less opportunity, for fathers to go out and blow off some steam or have a good chat with mates.
It gets worse, but take a deep breath and bear with me.
If it goes unaddressed, a dad’s depression can have long-term effects on their partner and the baby too. Research shows dads with PPD are less able to support their partner and the risk for relationship breakdown is higher. Dads who are depressed are also less likely to be engaged with their child in things like reading, playing, singing songs or telling stories – all important for their child’s vocabulary. Sadly, children of depressed fathers have a higher chance of growing up with longer-term behavioural or emotional problems.
The good news (phew!), is once it’s recognised, depression can be managed, men can recover and relationships can be healed.
Often things can be better than before, for both parents and the family.
So, if the above sounds like you or a man in your life, there are many avenues for support:
Another great way for a dad to bust the blues is to spend time with their baby. Research tells us that dads who have lots of wiggle room to find their own ways of caring for their baby can develop a stronger bond with them, have higher self-esteem, are happier in their relationship – and are less likely to be depressed. This has the added benefit of giving mum a much needed and well-deserved break and bub will love that extra attention too. Great stuff for the whole family!
For more information on Postpartum Depression in fathers, check out Daddy Blues by Mark Williams. To recover from Perinatal Mental Health Issues, repair your relationship and return to the loving couple you once were, see Becoming Us by Elly Taylor.
As a relationship counsellor and a new mother at the same time, Elly Taylor and her husband were blindsided by the changes and challenges of becoming parents and the fallout for their relationship. Fast forward 20 years or so and Elly is the author and founder of Becoming Us, a whole family approach to parenthood that supports the mental, emotional and relationship wellbeing of mothers, fathers and families. She lives in Sydney with her firefighter husband (yes, they made it!), their three children and a bunch of pets. For more please see www.ellytaylor.com