Depression in fathers and partners

Depression in fathers is common affecting up to ten percent of fathers during the perinatal period (pregnancy and the first year of the baby’s life). Whilst the likelihood of men developing depression at this time significantly increases if their partner is depressed, men may experience depression on their own. Less is known about the rates of depression in non-birthing mothers. 

After a few weeks of my self discovery that I might have depression things hadn’t gotten better so I went to a GP where I was prescribed an antidepressant.

Like depression in birthing mothers, the condition can be serious if not recognised or treated – so it’s important to recognise the signs and what to look for, so you can seek help early and get back on top of things.

If untreated, depression can also begin to impact on others. It is likely to place additional distress on your partner, and affect your relationships with not only them, but also your baby, other children, family and friends as you may tend to become more withdrawn and isolated.

I remember grudgingly doing things that my daughter needed. I hated feeding her, dressing her, hearing her cry, everything.  

If ongoing and untreated, postnatal depression in fathers can also affect your ability to interact and bond with your child, which can impact on their social and emotional development in the coming years.

At the height of my depression I would have shuddered at the thought of spending any extended time with my  daughter, but since starting treatment, we’ve had several father/daughter days out.    

So for all of these reasons, it’s important to be aware of the signs of depression, so that you can recognise it early.

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Symptoms of postnatal depression

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling sad or down, or sometimes feeling numb and nothing at all
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life, your baby, or activities that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling angry, frustrated and/or irritable
  • Lacking energy and motivation, feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling disconnected from others
  • Loss of libido
  • Difficulties thinking clearly or concentrating which may be also affected by lack of sleep
  • Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Changes in appetite and weight (may increase or decrease).

Dads can display other behaviours which may indicate that they are unwell, such as staying at work for longer hours, engaging in risk taking behaviours or extramarital affairs.

If you have experienced these symptoms for two weeks or more, and are beginning to find it difficult to function from day to day, you may have depression.

For new fathers and partners this can be very debilitating, as it will impact on your ability to support your partner, function at work and/or home, respond to and enjoy your new baby. The baby’s cries or demands may become particularly frustrating to you – as you may begin to feel that you have reached the end of your tether.

So before things reach boiling point, it’s a good idea to seek help. There are safe and effective treatments for depression, and the faster you seek treatment, the faster you can recover and get back to your old self.