This week is Post Natal Depression Awareness Week. With 1800 Australians being diagnosed every week, it’s no surprise that Australian organisation’s such as PANDA (Post and Ante Natal Depression Association) have dedicated a week-long campaign to raise awareness in the community of this debilitating condition.
But what I am taking from this week is something unexpected.
PANDA suggests that 1 in 7 women and 1 in 14 men are diagnosed with post-natal depression (PND) annually.
Yes I said 1 in 14 men.
In fact, it is suggested that this figure could be actually be a lot higher because while men have a similar predisposition for developing PND as women, they are less likely to come forward for diagnosis and support.
In basic terms, this means there could be many dad’s out there either not understanding what they are feeling, or if they do, they may feel ashamed or worry about being considered less masculine if they put their hand up for help.
While I find this really sad, it’s not really at all surprising – there is quite often a massive transition of responsibility to the male when their baby arrives, and most of the time this is with little resources (especially if they aren’t the kind of guy to read one or any of your pre & post childbirth handbooks that you have so diligently memorized). Even if they do attend your obstetrician or GP appointments, it’s unlikely that they will ask pertinent questions around how the child’s birth and the period after may affect them personally – the focus is usually on mum and bub.
Add to this unpreparedness a likely increase in financial pressure (with a drop from two to one income), ongoing work commitments complicated by sleep deprivation, a likely change in relationship dynamic with their partner, and perhaps a lack of confidence and/or opportunity to connect with his baby, and it’s no wonder any man with an increased risk of developing PND will likely end up there.
Regardless of how or why it happens, what makes things worse is that the warning signs may not be as obvious for men as they are for women, especially if they don’t show emotion easily or find communicating sensitive issues difficult. So they may go undiagnosed, or diagnosed very late.
PANDA provides the following list of symptoms for paternal post natal depression as a general guideline:
- Tiredness, headaches and pain
- Irritability, anxiety and anger
- Loss of libido
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control and unable to cope
- Engaging in risk taking behaviour
- Feelings of isolation and disconnection from partner, friends or family
- Withdrawal from intimate relationships and from family, friends and community life
- Increased hours of work as a part of the withdrawal from family etc
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol instead of seeking treatment for depression
So, when there is a new life developing, or recently arrived, let’s not forget the dads and make sure they are feeling supported and enjoying the journey – just as much as mum.
Were you aware the risk for paternal post natal depression was so high?
~ alisha & anna
For more info visit
Post and Ante Natal Depression Association (PANDA) – www.panda.org.au
The Australian Fatherhood Initiative – www.australianfatherhoodinitiative.org
Beyond Blue – www.beyondblue.org.au
Or contact your GP