Welcoming a new infant is a joyous time for most parents, but for some, this time may bring about feelings of sadness, anxiety, panic, and loneliness. Numerous changes accompany the transition to parenthood that can be demanding and overwhelming, and sometimes these changes can adversely impact the mental health of parents. While we typically associate mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety around the time of pregnancy with mothers, these concerns are becoming increasingly common in fathers. In fact, postpartum depression affects up to 1 in 10 fathers. This is twice the rate of depression that is considered normal in men outside of the time of their partner’s pregnancy. Although an increasing number of fathers are being impacted by this, less attention has focused on the mental health and well-being of fathers compared to mothers.
However, it is important to prioritize the mental health of fathers for several reasons. Most notably, a father’s mood impacts how he interacts with his infant and partner. Research has shown that fathers who are depressed are less likely to engage in positive interactions and activities with their infant (for example, reading, singing songs, and telling stories), which may lead to delays in their infant’s social, cognitive, and emotional development. Depression in fathers may also have a negative impact on the quality of his relationship with his partner, may make his partner more vulnerable to depression, and impair his partner’s parenting behaviours. Therefore, it is important to identify and seek appropriate support when a father is struggling with their mental health.
Here are some signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Lack of interest
- Sleep problems
- Lack of confidence
- Anger, irritability, or aggression
- Greater alcohol or substance use
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Feeling detached
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
What to do and when to seek support:
Proper sleep hygiene, regular exercise, social support (for example, their partner, parent(s), sibling(s), or friends) are activities that can be beneficial for a father’s mental health. Adjusting to a new infant takes time and it is normal to feel overwhelmed. However, if the symptoms persist longer than two weeks, consider speaking to a healthcare professional such as a family doctor, who can provide appropriate support.
For more information, check out the following resources for fathers:
- Dad Central (https://dadcentral.ca/)
- Father’s mental Health Network (http://fathersmentalhealth.com/#about)
- The National Center for Fathering (http://fathers.com/)
- Dads in Gear (http://dadsingear.ok.ubc.ca/)
- All Pro Dad (https://www.allprodad.com/)
- Postpartum Support International (https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/resources-for-fathers/)
- Postpartum Men (http://postpartummen.com/)
Jenna Pirmohamed is a Research Professional with a keen interest in leveraging innovative research approaches to design and evaluate health system solutions that optimize patient care and system performance. She has a Masters of Science in Health Services Research from the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at University of Toronto.
Disclaimer: The information/advice provided in any form of communication by Gentle Dreams is not a substitute for medical advice. The advice is for informational purposes only and is intended for use with common sleep issues that are unrelated to medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or the health and welfare of your child.