Supporting expectant and new fathers

Pregnancy, or the prospect of it, can be overwhelming whether conception is planned or not. The reality is life changing and it is only natural for emotions to run high – not only for women but men too. It is estimated that on average 1 in 10 dads-to-be and new dads experience depression during and after their partner’s pregnancy.Whilst this is still lower than the statistics for women, for whom 1 in 5 are affected by pre- and post-natal depression, we are now beginning to see more attention paid to men and their mental health in relation to pregnancy. In December 2018, NHS England pledged to offer more support for postnatal depression in men. This is an extremely positive move.2 Here, Early Bird Swift offers its advice on looking out for warning signs in expectant and new fathers and the support that can be provided.

What might trigger depression in expectant and new fathers?

The inevitable realisation that change is going to come can be scary for expectant and new dads. The responsibility is one thing, from both a financial perspective and a personal point of view. This new life will depend on them, yet their career demands may continue too. It is likely that the romantic relationship with their partner will change dynamic due to new priorities and heightened hormones. Meanwhile once baby has arrived, adjusting to parenthood can be a shock to the system. It is important to remember everybody handles life changes and stress in different ways.

It is estimated that on average 1 in 10 dads-to-be and new dads experience depression during and after their partner’s pregnancy.1

What behaviour should I look out for?

Whether you are the partner, or a friend, family member or colleague of an expectant or new father there are symptoms of mental health problems to look out for. A shift in behaviour may be noticed during pregnancy or after, differing from the personality you know. Look out for distant, quiet behaviour, a switch in mood such as sadness or anger, an apparent change in appetite or a reluctance to socialise.

It is only natural that waves of emotion can affect expectant or new fathers but if the behaviour continues for an extended period (weeks or months) it may signal signs of depression, and they likely don’t even know it.

How can I support them?

Communication can make such a difference. Ask them how they feel. Offer your support that you are here for them. Should they speak out, they may feel like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. If you get an indication that talking to someone professionally such as a counsellor or GP would suit them better then there is no harm in suggesting this. If they are your partner, you could even suggest couple counselling to help move forward positively for your new or expected arrival. Local self-help groups for men are also on the rise in communities, which are great for expectant/new fathers to empathise with and compare pregnancy journeys.

Official Support:

  • The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) hosts local support meet-ups, which can be found here.
  • MIND
  • PANDAS Foundation
  • The NHS can also recommend further groups to support partners and families

Expectant and new fathers can also contact the Pregnancy Matters™ helpline here.

References
[1] https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1046190/depression-in-dads-to-be

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46424419

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