Anxiety and depression related to the emotional and physical changes that happen during pregnancy, child-birth, and becoming a parent are known as perinatal mental health problems. This includes:
- Antenatal depression, which occurs during pregnancy.
- The “baby blues”, which are a brief period of feeling emotional and tearful that occur around three to ten days after giving birth; and
- Post-natal depression, which tends to last for longer and can be more severe, affecting around 3 in 10 new mothers.
While it is believed that perinatal depression can be caused by a hormone imbalance during pregnancy, other factors that can contribute include: sickness, tiredness, anxieties over becoming a new parent, financial concerns, relationship concerns, and being predisposed to perinatal depression through having a history of depression or other mental health problems.
Currently, only mothers can be formally diagnosed with perinatal mental health problems. However, many of the contributing factors above can be experienced by partners too, with new studies suggesting that partners can also experience mental health issues during pregnancy and after childbirth, with approximately 13% experiencing depressive symptoms during the pregnancy, and 1 in 5 experiencing depression after becoming fathers.
This is particularly true where men: are a young parent without a good support network, have experienced abuse in their childhood, are struggling with other stressful life events such as losing their job or being bereaved, or are living with a partner experiencing a mental health problem.
I have spoken with hundreds of fathers about perinatal mental health on social media, in support groups, via Skype and email, in person, and at conferences, and found factors that contribute to their anxious feelings include: unplanned pregnancy, previous custody battles, previous loss during pregnancy, fear of the unknown, lack of confidence that they will be a good parent, previous trauma in the labour ward, work pressures, and a history of anxiety or mental health problems.
While it is widely accepted that cases of perinatal mental health problems in women go largely unreported due to a variety of factors – with a reported 58% of women who experience symptoms not seeking professional help – there are support systems and treatment options in place for mothers, where currently there is a lack of formal diagnosis for fathers.
Symptoms of perinatal depression are similar for both men and women, and include: fatigue, inability to concentrate, feeling emotionally detached, memory-loss, tearfulness or frustration, chronic anxiety, extreme irritability, feeling isolated and guilty, over or under eating, over or under sleeping, as well as increased alcohol consumption and substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts.
Paternal depression can affect men of all ages, personality types, and financial status. As with mothers, it is important that perinatal mental health problems in fathers is recognised and treated effectively. Although there are fewer services available to support partners, and men are unable to get a specific perinatal diagnosis, there are still ways for fathers to seek support. speak to health visitor or GP to access community mental health services and perinatal mental health charities.
I am very happy that Moment Health are including men in their application for new mums and dads, or indeed anyone on a parenting journey. You can try downloading the Moment Health App from iOS and Android stores to check your symptoms and find support near you.
About the Author
Mark Williams is author of Daddy Blues, international father’s mental health campaigner. Mark also campaigns for the reopen of the MBU in Wales.
2004 but due to no screening was never officially diagnosed As a result, he founded the internationally recognised Fathers’ Mental Health Day and #HowAreYouDad campaign to make sure both parents have mental health support.
Mark has spoken on television programmes and radio stations around the world, and has published articles on the mental health of fathers with Past-President of the International Marce Dr Jane Hanley.
Mark was awarded Inspirational Father of the Year and Local Hero at the Pride of Britain Awards in 2012, and was invited to meet The Royal Family on World Mental Health Day in 2016.
Find out more about Mark and his campaign activities here:
A bit about Moment Health…
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It will screen for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and include additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
Download our App today