Why we need to talk about new dads and postnatal depression

Being a dad is exciting but also challenging. Find out why we need to talk about new dads and postnatal depression.

There tends to be a lot of pressure on new dads. They’re likely to take care of all the physical matters, provide emotional support to the mum, and also take shifts soothing the baby at night, while most still working full-time.

But all of that can take its emotional toll on new dads. It’s not uncommon that they might develop postnatal depression, yet that’s something that is not talked about often enough.

UK baby brand, Nuby, debunks the stereotypes surrounding new dads to shed some light on the soft side of our male companions who can equally support us while we also extend a helping hand to them.

Why being a new dad is both a blessing and a challenge

There is nothing more satisfying for a new dad than embracing their newborn son or daughter in their hands. Whether sitting, standing, or lying, they can stay in this position forever, most dads will tell you.

But along with the blissful moments of raising a life come a few challenges, especially for first-time dads. Often, they might not be aware of them, and there certainly isn’t enough conversation to prepare them for what’s to come.

First, there are physical challenges: sleep deprivation, daily routine changes, and unexpected events. When a new member comes into the family, dads and mothers need to readjust their whole lives to accommodate the little one. It might take some time to adjust, and it also means that alone time, which is useful for recouping, may also be reduced, especially at the beginning.

Then comes the financial pressure. From diapers and formula to baby gear and clothes, many new expenses are added to the family budget. To ease the financial burden, spread your expenses over time. For example, you can buy all your newborn essentials before your baby arrives and then leave room for whatever other items you might need as the baby comes.

Dads may also feel isolated or disconnected from the rest of the family, especially if the mother is the primary caregiver. Some relationship dynamics change, leaving new dads questioning their value and self-confidence.

Dads can get postnatal depression too

All the factors mentioned above can contribute to stress and anxiety among new dads and even lead to postnatal depression.

Yes, postnatal depression is usually attributed to women, but dads can be affected too. In fact, psychiatrist Saqib Bajwa claims that between 8% to 10% of non-birthing parents suffer from a wide range of overwhelming emotions within the first three-six months of birth, out of which depression is a main one.

Regardless, there is no tendency to screen non-birthing partners for postpartum depression (PPD), which means there may be many cases with underreported symptoms.

Postpartum depression is characterised by the “baby blues” that occur within the first weeks, but if the symptoms continue for more than a month and start to interfere with one’s ability to perform daily tasks, it is classed as PPD.

Symptoms of postnatal depression in new dads can include feelings of sadness, guilt, irritability, exhaustion, and changes in appetite or sleep patterns. PPD can also manifest physically as headaches, stomach problems, or muscle pain.

If you or your partner are worried about PPD, seeking professional advice is best. There are several treatment options to overcome it.

Why we need to open the conversation around new dads and PPD

Dads’ mental health deserves a spot on our conversation list, and the more open we are about it, the less likely undefined cases of PPD are to occur.

Creating a safe and supportive environment where dads can talk about their feelings without fear of judgement is important. Make sure you show empathy by acknowledging that the transition to fatherhood can be challenging and that asking for help is okay.

Also, apply good conversation skills such as asking open-ended questions such as “How have you been feeling since the baby arrived?” and listening actively.

Four things we can do to support the mental health of new dads

Moreover, ongoing conversations about new dads’ mental health are essential to reducing the stigma surrounding men’s mental health and ensuring they receive the support they need.

Here are four practical steps that can be taken to support the mental health of new dads:

  1. Encourage self-care. Self-care can go a long way in soothing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Encourage the dad to prioritise his self-care, whether it’s through taking a break to exercise, reading a book, or taking a nap.
  2. Offer practical support. After birth, not all chores should fall in the dad’s lane. You can offer to help with some practical tasks, such as cooking a meal, cleaning, or running errands. You can even ask a family member or hire someone to help you with chores if needed.
  3. Encourage professional help. If the dad is experiencing persistent or severe symptoms, encourage him to seek professional help from a therapist, counsellor, or mental health professional. Let him know that seeking help is totally acceptable and a sign of strength.
  4. Provide social support. Connecting with other dads or supportive friends and family members can help reduce stress and promote mental health. It’s been shown that being a part of a group can alleviate feelings of isolation and alienation and prevent depression. There are many social support groups and community programs where dads can meet dads and find a community of like-minded people to help them on their exciting fatherhood journey.

New dads’ mental health is of vital importance, and there are many steps we can take to support them and prevent them from suffering postnatal depression. Just one conversation can turn things around, so don’t shy away from providing the mental health support the dad needs.