Post-natal depression – for guys? One man explains how the birth of a child can be every bit as earth-shifting for dads as mums.
Oh yes, I was so excited about becoming a father.
I felt well prepared and couldn’t wait for the baby to be here. We had a lovely birth and during my paternity leave (well, I must admit after the initial panic subsided!) I felt like walking over pink clouds.
When I returned to work I did my best to support my wife. Often what I found at home was my exhausted wife, a crying baby and general chaos.
However, I always tried to finish work in time, I rushed home and normally I would either be with our baby or start the washing up, in order to have at least two clean plates in the house. Still, I struggled with getting comments or gazes from my wife. Whatever I did wasn’t good enough or right. My initial high turned into feeling low and the bitter taste of rejection lingered inside. Does she still love me? Am I a good enough father?
The truth is no-one had prepared me for these emotions and having my life turned upside down, while in the outside world I was expected to just return to normal, leaving me no time or space to reflect or simply breathe and find my feet. It left me and many other men struggling.
While women find this time equally hard, support is easier to access. Before and after the birth everyone seemed so supportive towards my partner: the midwife, the health visitor, family and friends. While my wife was able to share her new experience with other mums at various baby groups, getting nurtured and heard, I shut down emotionally and sometimes even physically (by becoming unwell).
I didn't know what was happening to me and had no idea that many fathers, apparently around 10%, experience similar emotions and for some it turns into Post Natal Depression.
There is very little research or general knowledge about it as men don't do the post birth check-ups with professionals, where maternal PND is often recognised.
The signs and symptoms (which can begin straight after or several weeks or months after your baby's birth) of postnatal depression in men have been described as:
- Tiredness, headaches and pain
- Irritability, anxiety and anger
- Loss of libido
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control and unable to cope
- Engaging in risk taking behaviour
- Feelings of isolation and disconnection from partner, friends or family
- Withdrawal from intimate relationships and from family, friends and community life
- Increased hours of work as a part of the withdrawal from family etc
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol instead of seeking treatment for depression