Did you know that 1 in 20 men experience antenatal depression–depression during their partner’s pregnancy –and 1 in 10 men experience postnatal depression, which occurs after the birth of a baby? 
Did you also know that perinatal depression and anxiety is treatable? And the earlier a person seeks treatment the better the outcome is for him and for his family. It takes a lot of courage to take this first step but it is a necessary one on the road to recovery.
So how do you know if you, or someone you know, is experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety?
What are the symptoms of PNDA in men? Are the symptoms different from PNDA in women? Where can you go for help and support? And what are the treatment options available?
Perinatal depression and anxiety in men
Who is at risk of perinatal depression and anxiety?
There are many factors that contribute to perinatal depression and anxiety – some are social factors, some physical and some emotional.
No one, regardless of age, background or attitude is immune – but there are some risk factors that can make some men more at risk than others …
- Lack of social or emotional support
- Relationship difficulties
- Financial difficulties
- Sleep deprivation / unsettled baby
- History of depression or family history of depression
- Low self-esteem
- First-time father
- Infertility or previous pregnancy loss
- Negative or traumatic pregnancy and/or birth
- Partner who is struggling with perinatal depression
- Other stressful life events or changes
Other factors that contribute to PNDA in fathers
- The change in social attitudes about what is expected of a modern-day dad, and the confusion surrounding this.
- Societal pressure on men to be ‘strong’ and not show weakness or ask for help.
- Some men may feel excluded from the parenting role or from their relationship with their partner.
- Worries about extra responsibilities, financial burdens and how to manage stress at work.
- Unmet expectations for the resumption of the sexual relationship after the birth of a baby.
- In pregnancy, concern about the pending changes to his life and feeling unsure about his role in caring for his partner.
Symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety in men
There’s no ‘one way’ to experience perinatal depression. Some men report feeling trapped and alone – as though they are pacing up and down in a cage and don’t know how to get out. Others feel angry and confused. Many experience a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, convinced that life will never return to normal. Others feel let down by the unmet expectations of what ‘fatherhood’ would be like. They also might feel as though they are letting down their family.
Here’s some other symptoms …
- tiredness and lack of sleep (unrelated to the baby’s sleep)
- muscular pain and headaches
- loss of libido
- changes in appetite
- feeling overwhelmed, not coping
- engaging in risk-taking behaviour
- feeling isolated and disconnected from the rest of the family
- working increasing hours
- an increased use of alcohol or drugs
- loss of enthusiasm for activities previously enjoyed
- increased irritability or anger
- suicidal thoughts
If you’re experiencing these symptoms it is important to seek help as the earlier you find support the better the outcome. If you’re having suicidal thoughts it is vital that you seek help immediately by contacting your GP or attending your local hospital’s emergency department.
Treatment for perinatal depression and anxiety in men
There are a number of support services and treatment options available to men and women who are experiencing antenatal and postnatal depression and/or anxiety. Some of these are listed here …
- Make an appointment with your GP. Your GP can do a full medical and health assessment and can refer you to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist who specialises in perinatal depression. You might be eligible for rebates from Medicare. Your GP can also talk to you about medication.
- Contact a depression or mental health hotline for support, information and referrals.
- Attend your baby’s next health nurse appointment, to learn of services available locally.
- Chat to trusted friends and family members. You’ll be surprised at how many other people find themselves in similar situations.
- Ask for, and accept, offers of practical support. Take up someone’s offer to babysit so you and your partner can have an hour or two to relax and reconnect.
- Find a support group. If you can’t find a support group in real life you can always find like-minded people to chat with online. Our own Dads Chat forum and Emotional Health forum are free to use and anonymous.
- Be kind to yourself and remember that with the right support and treatment you will be feeling like your old self again soon!
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.