Fathers also face post-natal depression risk

Around two in five new fathers are concerned about their mental health, according to a new survey, which highlights that it is not just mothers whose wellbeing is at risk after having a child.

Extra responsibilities, changes in relationships and lifestyle, as well as sleep deprivation, are among the factors that can impact men's mental health, said Britain-based parenting charity NCT, which did the research released last week.

Dr Abigail Easter, a psychologist with NCT, said: "Post-natal depression is typically associated with mothers and, often, fathers are forgotten during this important time, with almost no specific support available to men.

"Sadly, stigma around mental health still exists and many men may find it difficult to confide in others about how they are feeling."

Just as men are advised at antenatal classes to keep an eye on their partner's mental health during and after pregnancy, women should be urged to do the same, added Dr Easter.

Some 296 first-time fathers took part in the survey, which asked men and women to complete online questionnaires during their baby's first year (six to nine months) and a year later (18 to 21 months).

About 38 per cent of the first-time fathers said they were concerned about their mental health.

Although the number of respondents was relatively small, it chimes with previous research.

A 2010 study funded by the Medical Research Council found that by the time their first child is 12, 21 per cent of fathers have had at least one episode of depression, with the highest risk being in the child's first year.

An Oxford University study published last month, which followed 15 first-time fathers, found that five showed signs of mild to moderate depression two weeks after their child's birth, and one showed symptoms of moderately severe depression at six months.

Dr Easter said it was possible that the burden of being a modern dad was affecting men's mental health as well as traditional pressures, such as increased financial responsibility.

Another source of concern is that of their partner's mental health, with almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of first-time dads who completed the NCT survey identifying this as a worry for them.

Mr Mark Williams, founder of Dads Matter UK, a new organisation offering education and support for dads with perinatal mental health issues, said: "There are all sorts of reasons why men suffer mental health problems after the birth of a child. Some suffer from post-natal depression themselves while others get downcast because their partners have mental-health troubles."

He revealed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing his wife's distressing birth.

NCT urges new parents who experience persistent feelings of anxiety or low mood to seek help from their general practitioner.

It also advises sharing feelings with someone you trust, taking time for yourself by pursuing hobbies, exercise, or social activities.

The Guardian

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline Fathers also face post-natal depression risk. Subscribe