Postnatal depression(PND) is a recognised condition in new mothers, but what is less widely known is that new dads can also be prone to the problem. Even medical professionals can be unaware that fathers may experience PND, and the new family themselves may struggle to understand what is going on. 

What are the symptoms of PND?

PND occurs during the first year after a birth, and is usually characterised by a persistent low mood, tearfulness, irritability or anger towards partners or children, fatigue, disturbed sleep, changed eating habits, poor concentration, feelings of inadequacy or guilt, a loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, and trouble bonding with the new baby.

In men, the symptoms may differ, and they are more likely to resort to avoidant behaviours such as staying later at work, or misusing alcohol or drugs. 

New mothers usually have access to screening and support services to help them cope with the first months of parenthood, but men are often excluded from the process. However, it is estimated that about 10% of men suffer from PND and often the condition is going unrecognised. 

Grant Blashki, the lead clinical advisor of Australian mental health organisation Beyond Blue, told the BBC: “Although there has been rising community awareness about mental illnesses, such as postnatal depression in women, it’s a phenomenon that’s much less recognised in men.” 

Blashki added: “But relatively few of these men will reach out – or even believe they have a problem to begin with. In my practise, it’s interesting that – even if your background is highly educated, or a health professional – there are still high levels of stigma about mental health illness amongst men.”

“And this can result in denial or poor help-seeking, or a sense that you should just sort it out yourself.”

Men can feel under particular pressure as a new parent to step up and become a strong role model, and they often find themselves in the position of the sole breadwinner for the first time in a relationship. 

A man’s relationship with his partner also changes with the challenges that a new baby can bring. They may feel excluded from the attention the new mum is receiving, and the couples’ sex life is likely to change. Men can even experience a dip in testosterone levels and an increase in the female hormone oestrogen at this time, which can lower the sex drive.  

Blashki commented: “There are still many myths prevalent around mental illness as a sign of weakness or something that a man should just be able to sort out himself. These sorts of myths can be amplified by a sense that the man ought to be the strong one during this big time of transition for the mother and baby.”

Campaigners are calling for better recognition of PND in men, and are encouraging more men to speak out and seek professional help. 

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