Antenatal depression for dads
Antenatal depression is very common in mothers-to-be. In fact, if your partner is going through some kind of pregnancy depression right now – she is by no means alone. It is likely that at any given time there are around 1 billion pregnant women in the world and when it is considered that one in five pregnant women experience some form of antenatal depression, it means that right now your partner is just one of around two-hundred million with the condition.
This is not to trivialise antenatal depression – it is a very real and often very profound consequence of pregnancy and the physical conditions of pregnancy – it simply provides some useful background so that you can understand that neither you or your partner are alone.
Partners are the first and most important system of support
There is no better first line of defence against antenatal depression than support from a partner.
By being there for your partner, offering your unconditional love and support, you can a make real difference to how she feels, not only during the pregnancy but also afterwards: women who are supported through their pregnancy are less likely to develop postnatal depression.
If your partner is feeling anxious, depressed, detached, guilt-ridden or indeed if anything about her mood and mental state are worrying you, talk to her and help her through the process. If you believe it is necessary, speak with your family doctor, who will be able to help guide you through your options.
Antenatal depression in dads
For too long antenatal depression in women was overlooked by the medical and psychiatric health establishment. Nowadays, however, we are aware that it is a feature of pregnancy for as many as 20% of all women.
Luckily for us men, recognition of the reality of antenatal depression in mothers has cleared the way for recognition of what remains a lesser known phenomenon: antenatal depression in fathers.
According to research carried out in Canada, at the Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), that was published in 2015 in The American Journal of Men’s Health, a “significant” number of dads-to-be experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy.
“The mental health of men remains a neglected area of research and one that is not adequately addressed during the transition to parenthood,” commented Dr Deborah Da Costa, researcher in the Division of clinical epidemiology at the RI-MUHC.
The research looked at the experience of 622 fathers-to-be over an 18-month period and considered factors such as emotional state, quality and hours of sleep, physical activity, social support, marital adjustment, financial concerns and demographics. Interestingly, problems with sleep were found to be one of the most significant risk factors for antenatal depression in men.
Overall, the research found that 13.3 per cent of dads-to-be experienced what might be termed antenatal depression. However, it is worth noting that the study looked only at the experience of expectant fathers whose partners were in the third trimester of pregnancy.
What to do if you are experiencing depression
Just as with your partner, if you feel you may be experiencing the symptoms of antenatal depression, speak with your doctor about your options.
Remember though, there is plenty you can do to help yourself. One advantage you have over your pregnant partner is that you can undertake vigorous exercise to boost your endorphin levels and general health and wellbeing. Another advantage is that, if necessary, you have a much wider array of medication available to help lift your mood; because your partner is pregnant, she is restricted in her choices.
Above all, there is help available for both partners involved in a pregnancy and there is no shame in asking for it. Your unborn child will be all the better off if you do.