Postnatal paternal depression is a real thing; Let’s talk about it more

When we talk about having babies, most of the talk is surrounding mothers and infants. Rightly so too, as the mother is the one who physically carries the child in her womb for nine months, endures the pain of childbirth and then remains the primary source of nutrition for the baby at least in the first six months.

All this means that the well being of the mother during the pregnancy, through labour and after she delivers is of prime importance.

The dads, on the other hand, are expected to shoulder the responsibility of being there for their partner and pitch in however and whenever they can once the baby arrives.

There is no time and definitely no mind space to ask the father how he is coping with it all.

In cases where the pregnancy is unplanned, even with dads who step up, there is little to no discussion surrounding his mental health and acceptance levels when it came to dealing with an unplanned fatherhood.

A survey of dads who dealt with unplanned pregnancy revealed a spectrum of responses. One set said, the minute they heard about the baby, they just stepped up, it was that simple. Even though they felt anxious, the joy was more.

Another set said they were simply terrified and it took time to come to terms with it. Yet another set baldly stated that they did not want to be fathers as they were not ready and asked their partners if abortion was an option.

For those who still ended up being dads, they stated feeling resentment. From a survey that went on Reddit, which garnered thousands of responses, an innovative data culling technique was used to group the responses from dads to identify the theme of discussions amongst fathers and what they go through when their babies are born.

It showed that much like women, men who had to deal with unexpected and unplanned pregnancies also experienced the whole gamut of emotions and they too needed peer support to cope with it.

Many men admitted to feeling sadness, hopelessness, guilt and some even felt like all the happiness was sucked out of their life. Some bluntly shared that they simply couldn’t bond with their infants.

Men also admitted to wanting to breakdown and cry and some could not get over the sadness of feeling like their life before the baby was born is gone forever.

Studies show that these are all common signs among men and are indicative of postnatal depression. In many cases, these feelings are resolved on their own. Once sleep patterns are established men revert to a semblance of normalcy, but those who cannot break the loop pf negative thoughts are at risk of developing paternal depression.

The scary part of it is that paternal depression is directly linked to higher risk of depression in their partners/spouses and it increases the possibility of children developing behavioural problems.

Here’s the good part, as per the Reddit survey, turns out men are good at seeking support and lending a supportive ear to their peers.

The online discussion groups showed that amongst their peers, men comfortably shared their brutally honest feelings and they got the right encouragement and were told my fellow men that they weren’t alone and that what they are feeling will pass.

The support system extended by men in online anonymous forums is the heartwarming takeaway from this phenomenon.

However, more needs to be done, to ensure that men are not left to cope with their feelings on their own. While the mother is shouldering the biggest burden physically and mentally when it comes to conceiving, birthing and rearing a child, a father too needs to pitch in and do so with a healthy mind for the overall mental wellbeing of his family.

So, it is time to talk about postnatal depression among men as well and reduce the stigma attached to it. Being mentally healthy is the best gift any parent can give themselves, their partners and their child.

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