Parenting: The one thing you need to know about postnatal depression....

There's a lot of misunderstanding about postnatal depression and what it is (and isn't). You'll have heard stories from previous generations about how it changed some women beyond recognition or that they couldn't bond with their baby, or even insensitively put, that they went a bit funny. 

Little is thought generally about why someone may have experienced postnatal depression or closely related, postpartum anxiety, or even postpartum rage. It shows us how little time science has dedicated to getting to know this very delicate issue or more generally the inner workings of our minds, bodies, and therefore emotions. 

Postnatal depression isn't brought on by just one thing, but the one thing you should know is that it can affect anyone....even men or the non-birthing partner in your relationship! Yes that's right. 

It can be a cocktail of hormones, trauma related to the birth or previous trauma in their lives, heath anxiety, fear of loss, lack of sleep, financial worry, support or a myriad of other things...but the thing that helped me understand it better is that it is how we feel about our identity as a parent, that comes with the seismic shift of bringing life into this world. 

How can that be, you say? If its connected to hormones and giving birth...well it isn't, or at least not only that can bring it on. It is connected to parental identity, or the giving birth to a maternal or paternal identity. That identity could be at odds with a previous version of yourself, or the expectations you had of becoming a parent, or the extra responsibilities it brings. It can resurface anxiety and trauma around loss or health anxiety, your own abandonment or troubled relationship with a parent/s, or worries around financial pressure. 

Around 1 in 10 new dads or non-birthing parents will experience depression after a baby and 18 in every 100 dads or NBP admit to anxiety. It can be triggered by lack of support, increased workload and financial burden,  lack of sleep, previous traumatic events.

They may also feel overwhelmed by things like:

balancing work and extra responsibilities at home

financial worries if they become the sole earner

changes to the relationship once you become parents

jealousy over the attention the baby gets

lack of sleep and disruption to routine and hobbies

changes in identity

general stress

expectations of fatherhood

possible lack of good role models when they were growing up

and many more....

Here are the things to look out for in fathers:

frustratio anger and irritability

lack of motivation


aches and pains

changes in sleep


drinking, smoking more

lack of interest in sex

working longer hours


and sometimes domestic violence

Unfortunately mental health is only something we are now bringing into the main stream so many of these things go undetected and therefore unsupported. 

The stigma attached to seeking help puts many men off getting help and lack of a support network to vent to or share feelings can lead to isolation. It is also a factor that they may feel they are adding to their partners burden or detracting attention from the mother, who, let's face it. have gone through even more significant changes themselves.

The good news is that the NHS are recognising it and are offering mental health assessments to new fathers who need support. 

This just adds further weight to the fact that the outcomes for new mothers and fathers are better when there is a village to support them both. The better rested, fed and cared for the parents, the better the outcome for baby too, which has to be paramount.

Did your partner change after the birth of your child? I'd love to hear about it....

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