Video credit: the BBC news website
There have been lots of reports going round about the impact of lockdown measures on mental health and it's important to highlight how it can impact new parents. Becoming a parent, especially for the first time can be a very overwhelming experience. Adjusting to the changes you may be making to prepare for parenthood can be challenging, but particularly throughout the isolation caused by the pandemic.
Many people have not had as much access to their support network as expected and the added financial pressures may also have a big impact on mental wellbeing. Many dads and partners feel unable to seek support because they have to 'be strong for the baby's mother' or because they feel they have no right to feel low at a time when they should feel happy.
It's really important that dads and partners feel able to reach out for support without feeling that they will be judged. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety are medical conditions which will be taken seriously by health professionals. If you think you're experiencing a mental health problem, there is help and support available.
What is perinatal depression?
The term 'perinatal' means the period immediately before and after birth. Perinatal depression can affect parents during this time frame and is a recognised mental health condition that can be diagnosed by doctors.
Why might a dad or partner have perinatal depression?
Becoming a parent is life changing and this can be very unsettling. You might feel pressure to be happy all the time when you are dealing with lots of different emotions. The causes of depression will depend on each individual, but might include the following:
- a lack of support network
- stressful life events, particularly during the pandemic
- having poor living conditions or are living in poverty
- financial pressures
- relationship issues with your partner
- not getting enough sleep
- pressures of caring for multiple children.
Symptoms of perinatal depression
Symptoms can range from mild to severe, they can include:
- feeling sad and hopeless
- constant exhaustion or numbness
- not wanting to do anything
- feeling unable to cope
- feeling guilty for not being happy or for not coping
- worrying that you don’t love your baby enough
- being easily irritated
- crying or wanting to cry more than usual
- not wanting to eat or being unable to eat
- binge eating
- finding it difficult to sleep
- lack of interest in your partner and/or baby
- anxiety and/or panic attacks
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- having worrying thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
- thinking about death.
Where can dads and partners go for support with depression?
It's important to remember that there are different forms of treatment available, from talking therapies to medication. The first step is to seek support from your GP. There are also dedicated mental health organisations and support groups where you can find help:
PANDAS Dads have a private Facebook support group to help dads going through and anxiety and/or those who are supporting their partner with perinatal mental illness.
Day or night, Samaritans are there if you need to talk. Call them on 116 123.
SMS4dads gives dads information and connects them to online services by text. As well as this, every three weeks you get an interactive ‘How’s it going?” message. Give it a try.