Male Post-natal depression

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy based self-help for you or your partner

Post-natal Depression in Men is under-recognised and undertreated, but can leave men struggling as they try to cope with one of the biggest events in their lives – Fatherhood.

Up to 25.5% of New Dads experience Low Mood or Depression in the months following the birth of their child.  Many of these men fail to get help.

Undiagnosed Depression in New Dads is related to:

  • Not bonding with the baby
  • Relationship problems
  • Anger and Irritability
  • Alcohol and Substance use
  • Domestic Violence
  • Suicide risk

This site is dedicated to helping New Dads recognise and deal with the symptoms of Male post-natal depression using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the first line treatment for Depression symptoms in the UK, as recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Black and White Dad and Baby
Dad and baby in the sunset

Learn more about the symptoms of Male post-natal depression

Low mood, Tearfulness, Disturbed Sleep and Lack of Motivation are all symptoms of Depression.  Understanding what Depression is, is the first step to tackling it.

Discover how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help with New Dad Depression

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence based type of Psychotherapy, that teaches you skills to address Depression symptoms and cope better in the “here and now”.  Learn specific CBT techniques on this site to help you understand and manage your mood.

5 Areas formulation in CBT for depression

How can men get post natal depression?

Post-natal depression in men can have many negative consequences for the depressed father, his spouse, the child and for society in general, and yet there are still so many barriers to getting help.

Few people are prepared for the impact that becoming a parent involves.

Where life may have been previously manageable, the seemingly random cries of an infant introduce a dose of uncertainty and confusion to the mix which may have not been there before.

Whilst previously when you were faced with a problem you would call upon your well honed problem solving skills to address it, now finding that you have exhausted all feeding, changing and burping solutions and still your little one is crying can quickly lead you to doubt your ability to cope. But you want to help, you’re a modern man and you want to share the duties. You’ll help with the night feeds, just so your partner can get some rest, even if it means you’re going to be tired for work the next day.

And this works…for a while. Until eventually, through tiredness, you make a mistake at work and your boss gives you a reprimand which makes you feel both angry and sad. “I’m doing my best” you think, “but if I lose my job then how will I provide for my family?”

Rather than talk to your partner about your work problems, you decide to not add any stress to the nesting at home and you choose to keep your problems to yourself.  You believe its probably better for your new family if you just sort this stuff out on your own. And you do.

But you find yourself thinking about your poor performance at work whilst you are at home, and whilst in work you’re thinking about how challenging things can be at home.  A process of rumination has begun.

Whilst all of this is going on, you’re still doing the night feeds, trying to take as much pressure off your partner as you can and trying to be the best dad you can.

You notice that your partner doesn’t always seem as grateful as she could be for the efforts you are making. You understand that sex is off the cards for a while but a little acknowledgement would be nice.

Thoughts start to run through your head, “she doesn’t think I’m doing enough”, “I’m not a good enough dad.” You start to notice that you’re not enjoying fatherhood as much as you thought you would.

You feel tears well up in your eyes every time you hear the baby cry, you resent your wife’s lack of response and apparent reliance upon you, and you really can’t be bothered with work anymore – but go you must. And so it goes…

Male PND, Fatherhood Depression, or Just Depression?

Male post natal depression is a controversial term.  Sometimes on the site I’ll call it Male PND, New dad depression or Fatherhood depression – whatever we do call it, the term refers to the phenomenon of depression symptoms experienced by Dads following the birth of a child.

There are some people who argue against the existence of Male post-natal depression.  These objections may be tied up in an over-reliance on the traditional “bio-medical” model of depression, a denial of the emerging research literature which supports the existence of new dad depression or a sexist world view which goes something like, “he’s depressed? he didn’t have to carry a baby around for 9 months!

Each of these objections is looked at in depth elsewhere on the site, but any view which inhibits depressed fathers from accessing support at such a fundamental stage in their, and their new family’s life, needs to be scrutinised and challenged.

Silhouette of a Dad picking up a baby against the sunset

How common is Male postnatal depression?

Compared to post-natal depression in females, there have been relatively few studies conducted which seriously look at the incidence of male post-natal depression, however there is an emerging body of research which we can call upon to review the problem.

A 2010 meta-analysis, conducted by researchers Paulson and Bazemore, looked at 43 studies published between 1980 and 2009 to identify the prevalence of male pre-natal and post-natal depression. The meta-analysis included a total of 28004 individual participants and concluded that pre and post-natal depression was present in about 10% of males and was higher in the 3 to 6 month post-birth period.

A 2004 publication by Goodman, again a meta-analysis, looked at 20 published studies with the purpose of identifying the prevalance of male PND, to identify precipitating factors to the condition and to look at it’s relationship to female PND. Goodman found that the prevalence of male post-natal depression symptoms in the first year post-birth ranged from 1.2% to 25.5% of new dads. Further, a 2005 population study conducted by Ramachandani et al., found 4% of 8341 males were to be post-natally depressed 8 weeks after the birth of their child.

There is still more research to be done, but it is clear that there are significant numbers of New Dads who get depressed following childbirth.

The consequences of Male post natal depression

Post-natal Depression (PND) in females is a widely recognised phenomenon which is routinely screened for by medical professionals in the first year of a child’s life, and justifiably so. PND can lead to reduced interaction with the child (and subsequently hindered development), longer term depression symptoms impacting upon the mothers future personal, social and career functioning and increased suicide risk.

There is an emerging evidence which suggest that male depression in the post-natal period can mediate in the onset and severity of the female’s symptoms. That is, male post-natal depression is directly associated to the female PND presentation. Therefore, it seems a fair conclusion to make that if new fathers are also offered assessment and evidence based treatment for post natal depression then this will be likely to improve PND outcomes for new mothers.

Paternal depression has been associated with the child having lower intellectual functioning, lower social cognitive ability, impeded social functioning and an increased chance of themselves becoming depressed in later life.

Taking this into account, it makes the screening for and availability of treatment for male post natal depression an absolute social imperative.

Have you experienced a traumatic birth?

George Maxwell CBT Therapist

George Maxwell is an Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and director of Access CBT UK.

He specialises in the treatment of Male post-natal depression but also has extensive skills in working with PTSD, Anxiety disorders, OCD and Panic. If you would like to arrange individual therapy with him (either face to face or via Skype), or would like to receive information and updates relating to New Dad Depression then feel free to contact him at enquiries@accesscbt.co.uk or follow on twitter @newdad_depressn.

You can see him talk about his own experience of New Dad Depression here

Disclaimer: Depression in New Dads takes no liability for consequences of using materials on this site. In the event of crisis, a suitably trained mental health practitioner should be consulted.