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How to spot perinatal anxiety or depression in expecting and new dads

How to spot perinatal depression in menWith Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s important to remember that men can also develop anxiety or depression (or both) in their journey to becoming a parent.

Up to one in ten dads will experience anxiety or depression either during their partner’s pregnancy or in the first year after the baby’s birth [1].

There are a range of factors that can contribute to this, including relationship issues, financial stress, changed circumstances, fear of the future or uncertainty around caring for a baby.

The important thing to remember is that any expecting or new dad can develop this illness, regardless of their age, background, financial status or culture.

Even men who have previously been confident and sure of themselves can become anxious or depressed in becoming a parent.

We know from calls to PANDA’s National Helpline that many men find it hard to talk about their feelings, or about difficulties they might have coping when their partner has done the hard job of carrying and delivering the baby.

We hear from many dads who call our helpline that they want to be there to hold the family together. They want to be the reliable rock who never complains and just gets on with things. Men who are struggling can often be tempted to hide their feelings so their partners don’t have something else to worry about.

So if you’re the partner, friend or family member of an expecting or new dad, how can you recognise that they are facing difficulties?

Signs to look out for

While depression and anxiety appears differently for each new dad some of the common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Constant tiredness or exhaustion
  • Ongoing headaches
  • High physical stress levels e.g. muscle tension
  • Loss of interest in things he once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep problems (unrelated to baby’s sleep)
  • Ongoing irritability, anger or moodiness
  • Emotional withdrawal from his partner, baby, family, friends
  • Fear of looking after his baby
  • Not wanting to communicate with his partner, family and friends
  • Feeling isolated
  • Using alcohol or drugs to ‘escape’ or cope
  • Suicidal thoughts.

It can be hard to be sure, and often hard to bring up your concerns with a man you may know. But it’s really important for a new dad to seek support and treatment for how he is feeling as early as possible to help get better as soon as possible.

So if you can encourage him to seek support it can make a huge difference to his mental health and the health and happiness of his family.

Where to get help

If you’re worried about an expecting or new dad you know, let him know he can call PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 (Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST).

The Helpline provides a safe and confidential space for him to talk about the things he’s struggling with. PANDA’s telephone counsellors are highly trained to listen carefully to his concerns and help him towards the most appropriate steps to take from there.

If he resists talking about his feelings or reaching out for help, do your best to remind him that perinatal anxiety and depression is a medical condition. It is also temporary and treatable. Tell him that reaching out to get help can take some courage but this is the most important thing he can do to support his family.


The Bub Hub is proud to support PANDA

If you are anyone you know if struggling with perinatal anxiety or depression, call PANDA’s free National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline (1300 726 306). The service offers counselling, information and referral services with ongoing telephone support for families throughout Australia. The helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 7:30pm EST.

Visit www.panda.org.au for more information and useful resources.

1. Paulson, J. F. & Bazemore, S. D. (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: A meta-analysis. JAMA, 303(19), 1961-1969.

About Terri Smith

Terri Smith was the CEO of PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) from 2014-2019. She previously served as CEO of a professional health association, Deputy CEO/National Program and Policy Manager for Breast ...

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