Male postnatal depression

parent and babyWhile PND is most commonly associated with mothers, new fathers can also be affected. Research shows that up to 1 in 25 men can develop depression after the birth.

Symptoms will be similar to those described on the perinatal depression page, but as with all depression, they will be different for each person.

There are some factors that can increase the chance of a father to develop depression following the birth of a baby:

  • Being a first-time father
  • Living on a low-income
  • Having a partner with PND
  • Being an older father
  • Having previous experience of depression
  • Having poor support for the family
  • Experiencing stress in other areas
  • Experiencing relationship problems with his partner / mother of the baby.

Many of the organisations listed on the perinatal depression page will offer support for men too. It is important that you do ask for help, as this can help you get through this difficult time. With the right help and support depression is very treatable.

One man’s experience of postnatal depression

A father with experience of postnatal depression told us how it felt for him.

Having your first child is supposed to be one of the best things that could ever happen to someone. Yet there I was, sitting next to my new born son back in July 2004, feeling as about as low as I ever had in my life? What was happening to me? Why was I feeling like this?

Post-natal Depression (PND) in men is only recently becoming recognised as a condition. Until July 2004, I never really experienced depression as a condition. I considered (and still do) myself as a happy-go-lucky individual, never one to get too stressed and someone who liked to enjoy life. Yet at the time, enjoying life could not have been further from my mind…

Our little boy was born under quite traumatic circumstances. Although my wife had experienced a straightforward pregnancy, the birth was a 24hr labour followed by an emergency caesarean section. Our baby came out perfectly healthy, and my wife started the slow recovery from her operation. I had experienced the whole thing, but felt totally helpless sat next to my wife the whole time. In theatre, I did start to panic a little, as it’s not everyday you see your wife getting hooked up to monitors and drips. Still, we were really happy that everything had turned out so well. My wife and baby boy arrived home 4 days later, and this was when the trouble started.

“This horrible black cloud had parked itself over me and refused to budge – I felt trapped, unhappy, and worst of all, huge resentment towards the baby.”

Now having a newborn baby is something you are supposed to feel proud of, right? You are also expected to feel elated, tired but really happy, and desperate to show off your precious addition to the family. Well I felt none of these – in fact I felt like I wanted to escape. This horrible black cloud had parked itself over me and refused to budge – I felt trapped, unhappy, and worst of all, huge resentment towards the baby. In the first 4-6 weeks I felt dramatically unhappy, and I wanted to do anything and everything to be away from home.

I feel embarrassed writing this now, as anyone who has never gone through this will think it sounds mad – yet the situation was very real and a period of my life I will never forget. I called some friends who had children, and asked them how they felt when their baby was born. ‘Great’ they would tell me. ‘Made up’ they said. Yet I felt terrible, and couldn’t fathom out what was going on.

I ended up calling my Mum and breaking down on the phone – things had been building up and they simply came out all at once. My parents came over straight away and did all they could to help. My mum found an article on the internet at www.fatherhoodinstitute.org, which described what I was feeling. I read it with anticipation, and then felt a sense of relief that someone else had experienced the same as me. I phoned the number in the article and spoke to a very understanding man who helped me discuss what I was feeling.

“Simply talking to someone who had experienced similar feelings was a huge help.”

Simply talking to someone who had experienced similar feelings was a huge help. Only since then did I feel anything close to normal. I started to hold my baby boy and feel ok in myself. I would look down at him and start to think how lucky we were to have such a healthy baby. My wife would go out and I would look after him for a few hours – I even took him to the Next sale on my own – my first official father/son trip out! The ‘healing’ process took time, and only after 12 weeks did I feel better in myself.

“Slowly but surely things get better, and you do grow to love your child.”

If I could offer any advice to anyone experiencing what I felt, it would to speak to people where you can off-load your feelings. Preferably someone who knows how you are feeling – such as the people who manage the internet site I referenced above. Having a baby is a hugely life changing event, especially when the birth is traumatic. You go through a variety of emotions, and are left with a baby who requires 24/7 care at the same time. Slowly but surely things get better, and you do grow to love your child.

At the time of writing this, my son is now 4 years old and I love him to bits. We’ve also since had a beautiful baby girl who is now 1. Interestingly enough, I didn’t get the same feelings when she was born. I think the brain is very good at remembering the bad times and putting you in a better situation for the next time! I hope this article helps anyone who is feeling low after the birth of their child.

John

(This article first appeared in the Depression Alliance Scotland newsletter issue 3 2008)