Becoming a new dad can be exciting but it can also be anxiety-provoking, stressful and overwhelming.
We often think of postnatal depression as something that affects mums but one in 10 new dads experiences postnatal depression too. And dads whose partners have postnatal depression are more than twice as likely to develop depression themselves.
Dads who have an underlying mental health condition are also more likely to experience low mood in the perinatal period. Sometimes repressed feelings and previous trauma can resurface at this time.
If your partner does have a mental health condition, it can have an impact on your own mood. A lot of dads who are supporting a partner with perinatal mental health conditions can feel lonely, overwhelmed, neglected, anxious, low, guilty, angry or resentful.
There is often an expectation on dads to carry on as normal - caring for their partner and baby, carrying out household tasks, looking after any other children, doing the school run and working. This will undoubtedly affect your mood and feelings.
Becoming a new dad can bring about a lot of mixed feelings. During their partner’s pregnancy, a lot of dads can feel excluded or even invisible. If they go along to antenatal appointments, dads-to-be can sometimes feel ignored and not listened to.
If you have witnessed a traumatic birth or your baby has had to go to special care, this can understandably impact on your mental health. You might feel depressed, anxious, angry or in shock about what you have witnessed.
You might even have nightmares, flashbacks or mood swings. This can affect sleep, appetite, sex drive and can put a strain on your relationship. It can also affect your bond with your new baby.
Sometimes new dads can feel guilty about feeling this way - that the focus should be on the baby and their partner, and it was their partner who gave birth and went through the difficult time.
As a way of dealing with these feelings, some dads may turn to smoking, drugs and alcohol to help cope with how they are feeling.
You may even feel neglected by your partner, or that the attention is more on your baby and feel resentful towards them.
Support is out there and you can ask for help from:
- Your GP
- Your local psychological therapy service - talking therapies have been shown to help people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. You can usually refer yourself to your local talking therapies service without seeing your GP. We provide talking therapies via our Think Wellbeing Services in Halton, Knowsley, St Helens and Wigan. Alternatively, you can find your local service on the national NHS website.
- Your friends and family - sometimes just talking about how you're feeling can be a huge help
- Samaritans - you can call Samaritans free on 116 123 if you want to talk to someone now
As well as seeking professional help, there are things you can do yourself to look after your mental health after becoming a new parent:
- If you’re struggling, let your family and friends know. They may be able to help out with childcare to reduce the burden at home
- Try to find time for yourself and do things you enjoy like sports or hobbies
- Meet up with your mates - new dads can also experience isolation but it’s really important to make the time to socialise with others
- Spend time with your baby and if you can, attend classes or groups with them