Postpartum depression and anxiety have probably been around since the birth of humankind, yet these have become topics of public knowledge only within the last 15 years. A common assumption about women who become moody or anxious during pregnancy and after giving birth is that hormones are responsible for her sudden change in perspective, yet new research suggests that hormonal changes make only a small dent in the well of pre- and postpartum feelings (ScienceDaily, 8/2014). Now, as the mechanisms producing knowledge about human behavior slowly grind forward, new research is revealing that men are also afflicted with emotional turmoil during their partner’s pregnancy and after the birth of their child.
After reviewing 43 studies, Dr. Liana Leach, from The Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Ageing, Health and Wellbeing, found that 1 in 10 men suffer anxiety and depression before and after a child arrives. Although depression is generally difficult to understand, Dr. Leach believes new and soon-to-be fathers feel “left-out” of the childbearing process since mother and child are integrally linked, and there is often no support for a father’s concerns (ScienceDaily; 11/2015).
"Nobody is asking about the father and how he's doing,” said Carrie Wendel-Hummell, a University of Kansas doctoral candidate in sociology; "people typically focus on the mom and the infant, so not only is it more difficult for men to express their emotions, nobody is opening up that window for them either" (ScienceDaily, 8/2014). Wendel-Hummell points to the general absence of family-friendly leave policies in the workplace as one factor contributing to a new father’s stress, which obligate fathers to continue a day-to-day work routine while coping with the emotional and physical demands at home. Men don’t seek help “because they think 'it's not so much about me,” said Dr. Leach, and “health care during the perinatal period should be about the whole family” (ScienceDaily, 11/2015).
Fathers experiencing anxiety and depression after welcoming a new baby into their world should come as no surprise, but hearing a new dad admit he is having trouble just might. While women have been asserting themselves in what is, and has been, a “man’s world”, it seems men are reluctant to admit they are a part of what has long been assumed the world of mom and baby.
Fathers are significant in every aspect of family, including the link between mother and child. Perhaps it’s time for fathers to express their own feelings and needs when a baby comes along, and break the cultural norm that keeps them chained to the expectation of stoicism, and separation. If you are a new or soon-to-be dad, believe you are important enough to speak-up and reach out for help when you need it. “No man is an island…” John Donne prophetically wrote, and this includes you, too, Dad.
Australian National University. "Mental health risk for new dads." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151124112134.htm>.
American Sociological Association (ASA). "'Super-parent' cultural pressures can spur mental health conditions in new Moms and Dads." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818012229.htm>.