Within a few days of his daughter being born, though, he noticed he felt different. Nothing obvious at first but he was aware of a huge sense of responsibility both for his wife and their new baby girl. He felt very protective and a fierce need to keep them both safe. He noticed he was having constant thoughts about “being a good dad” and feared disappointing his wife and new child. He rationalised this as “normal”, and something that any dad would do, but then he started to notice these feelings in his stomach, like a churning or a knot which just wouldn’t go away. He was becoming irritable (so his wife said) and had lost his appetite. And his biggest problem of all was that he just couldn’t sleep.
Without mentioning the sleep, Alfie went to his doctor who, after various tests, ruled out any physical causes for his problems. However, his stomach ache got worse and he started to become increasingly overwhelmed with thoughts about being a new parent. He was starting to feel trapped by what he saw as the huge responsibility of being a parent, and was becoming more and more and distant from his wife. At a loss for what might be wrong, and becoming more and more concerned for his health – and his marriage -Alfie decided to research his symptoms and came across several articles about post-natal depression in men. Alfie went back to see his GP, this time giving all his current symptoms and sure enough, was referred for talking therapy.
Alfie’s case has a happy ending. He received help both privately, and with his wife. They decided to speak with Relate so he could talk through his concerns about being a good husband and father, and his fears of letting her down. But for many dads a lot can happen before they get the help they need or even realise there’s a problem.
Depression during the perinatal and Post Natal period is recognised more in women but at least 1 in 10 fathers (some studies suggest 1 in 5) can experience depression too. There are lots of possible factors and symptoms, including tiredness, lack of libido and behaviour/risk taking which becomes unhealthy and dangerous. Some men worry about their changing role – and that of the mum’s – in the house as well as concerns about finances and providing for those they care about.
Help is available. Speak with your doctor if you recognise any of these symptoms or others described in the links below.
For more information about perinatal mental health and post natal depression you may find this pamphlet from Mind useful. If you or someone you know may be affected, have a chat with your healthcare team as soon as possible. You may also find this resource useful, which gives more details about symptoms and effects of Post Natal Depression in men. If you’re feeling overwhelmed you can also speak with the Samaritans 24 hours a day.
Any names and circumstances used in articles are changed to protect the identity of individuals they may represent.