Fatherhood – Equal part stress and joy. Tips to manage dad’s mental health.

We all know that bringing a child into the world can be a time of great excitement and joy for any family, but for some it can also be a time of huge transition and change.

A new baby brings so many new challenges including sleeplessness, routine upheaval and stress to the marriage or relationship.  It can also bring additional financial pressures that lead to more stress and anxiety!

A lot is discussed about the health and well being of new mums, but less is spoken about the mental health of new dads. In fact, statistics show that over 45% of fathers are not aware that they can experience postnatal depression. Even worse than this is the fact that of first-time fathers see anxiety and depression after having a baby as a sign of ‘weakness’.

What should we be aware of as new dads?

We are all unique in how we cope with change, but there are a few symptoms that we need to keep an eye out for, some of these include:

  • Constant tiredness and fatigue
  • Reduced motivation
  • Irritability, anxiety and anger
  • Changes in appetite and sleep including difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating and mind always wondering

Are new dads all susceptible to perinatal depression?

Each new father will deal with a fresh addition to the family in their own way, and most will cope just fine. There are, however, a few traits in an individual that could be a risk moving forward.

Keep an eye on fathers who have/are:

  • Previously experienced depression or live with anxiety
  • Any previous relationship problems that could resurface during this stressful time
  • General low self-esteem or concerns about fatherhood
  • First time fathers who are struggling with all the changes and lack of sleep
  • Coping with a baby who is struggling to settle

I’m starting to feel overwhelmed as a father, what can I do?

The first thing to do is understand that anyone can go through these feelings, new babies are one of the hardest challenges in life and it is completely normal to have stress.

  • Seek support and open up – Find someone you can trust to have an honest conversation with. This might not be your partner, but maybe a family member or close friend.
  • Look after yourself – Exercise and eating well can be difficult to combine with the demands of work and parenting, but can make an important difference to how you feel. We would especially advise you to not turn to alcohol to help you cope!
  • Stop comparing – Each parent, child and family is different and you never truly know what they are all going through. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect dad’ so don’t try and compare yourself to others.
  • Ask for help – Parenting is the hardest thing you will ever do, and it does not come with an instruction manual. Just as you seek expert assistance if you had a heart condition or diabetes, mental health concerns are no different.  Seeing a psychologist is never a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you are taking the steps necessary to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.

Being a new dad should be a wonderful and exciting time but it will definitely come with its challenges. If you are facing ongoing stress or feel the need to reach out for some support, the team at The Crawley Clinic are here to help you manage and gain more control.