Mothers deserve lots of attention during pregnancy, labour and birth and into the early days of parenting. And fathers justifiably, are generally included in all the joy and excitement. But once the presents have been unwrapped and life has settled into a new type of normal, the reality of caring for a small human can really set in for both mum and dad.
At some point in the early months of their baby’s life, most dads come to realise that life will never be the same again.
In the last few years there’s been a huge increase in the amount of peri-natal support for new parents. Now, more than ever before, we understand the importance of sound mental health and well-being. But fathers can still miss out on having their needs met and struggle to cope with the huge changes which have occurred in their life.
Depression and anxiety are not restricted to mothers and are a reality for dads as well. Depression affects as many as 1 in 10 fathers between their partner’s first trimester and in their baby’s first year. Anxiety affects around 1 in 6 fathers during the pregnancy and around 1in 5 in the postnatal period. Conditions which include anxiety are at least as common. Some fathers develop depression during their partner’s pregnancy, which can become worse after the baby is born.
Many fathers report they find the whole process of labour and childbirth very confronting. Although most dads have done some research beforehand, the reality of the event can come as quite a shock.
Some fathers feel guilty about what their partner needs to go through during labour and childbirth and report feeling guilty. Others report they felt numb and frightened by the event.
It’s not uncommon for fathers to focus on the equipment in the labour ward or theatre, especially if they have an electronic or machinery mindset. Some will adopt the attitude of ‘leaving it all to the experts’ and become very quiet and almost shut down through the process. This can be challenging for the labouring mother who may interpret her partner’s quietness as being unsupportive.
Some fathers say they actually feel emotionally traumatised after witnessing their baby being born.
Whatever your experience, it’s neither right nor wrong. Every father is unique and will have his own individual responses to his baby’s birth.
Symptoms can vary significantly, however, these are some of the most common
Remember, you are not alone. There is always help available.
The NourishBaby - Guide to Babies - is an online program that you can view in your own time. The Guide to Babies helps you to understand and care for your baby and covers key milestones, sleep and settling advice and baby development. There is a section on real parents sharing their experience of adjusting to parenthood.
Many parents have reduced sleep when a new baby arrives. The Safe Sleep Space website has a variety of resources and supports to provide tips and advice on how to assist your baby with sleep. You can also book a phone consultation to speak with a Sleep Consultant.